Tag Archives: ambitious writing targets

Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2016 – February Roundup

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Where did it go? I know it’s a short month, but I turned around twice and February has moonalready slipped past with terrifying speed… So how did I do with the stupidly ambitious 2016 targets that I set in the New Year, aided and abetted by writing buddy Mhairi Simpson?

• I hadn’t been near my space opera novel, Running Out of Space since the mess last October, when formatting issues meant I couldn’t publish it as I had initially planned. When I revisited it in the middle of February, I was expecting the manuscript to be littered with a forest of niggling errors after my desperate efforts to manually replace all the italics and bolding that had been wiped out by the likes of Sigil. But there were only a small handful of mistakes which were quickly fixed. I have loaded onto Himself’s Kindle to see if the format is as robust as I’d hoped, and so far, so good… I also completed another editing pass on the sequel, Dying For Space, after my major rewrite last summer. Again, there were a series of small errors, but nothing too major.
Challenge – To have The Sunblinded trilogy published during 2016. After my failure last year, I am reluctant to give any firm dates when this will happen until I have everything in place, but at present, I am certainly on schedule.

• Last November, I finally completed the first draft of the book that has been burning a hole in my skull for the past eighteen months – Miranda’s Tempest. So after Christmas, I started the editing process. The biggest issue was that the style was far too modern and snappy, so I set about ‘Tudorising’ it. I went through and expunged most of the main verbs that were not around in the 16th century and replaced them with older words, as well as making the dialogue sound more appropriate. The word nerd in me was purring like a well-fed cat, but aware I can get carried away on these sorts of tasks, I kept passing bits of manuscript around to my long-suffering beta readers to ensure I wasn’t getting too extreme. So far the feedback has been positive. As soon as I am sure, the manuscript is as strongly written as I can manage, I shall start submitting it.
Challenge – to get Miranda’s Tempest fit to send out to agents by Easter. I’m on target for this one.

• I read 9 books and wrote a review for every single one of them during February, as they were all really good. It’s been a joy to read such a great run of books – it’s the best year that I can recall to date. I wrote two New Release Special reviews and have been applying more to NetGalley for ARC copies, which so far I have been getting. I am trying to widen my reading to include more authors new to me, especially women. During February I encountered four authors I hadn’t read before.
Challenge – To review a minimum of 100 books during 2016 and widen my reading to include at least a third of authors I haven’t read before. So far, I’m on course for hitting this target, although it’s early days and later in the year it could very easily slip, when I’m grappling with my publishing projects.

Overall, it’s been a reasonably productive month. I have managed to get through a significant amount of editing. I wrote just over 6,500 words on teaching admin and just over 7,000 words on my blog, bringing my writing total for 2016 so far to just over 40,000 words.

Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2015 – How Did I Do?

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Thanks to the success of this form of goal-setting, concocted by writing buddy Mhairi Simpson and moonme one New Year’s Eve a couple of years ago when we were slightly the worse for wear – this has now become an integral part of my writing process. The theory is that I set myself some crazily ambitious targets and while striving for those, achieve more than I would have done, had I been more sensible. Um. Yes, I know… But it made sense at the time, when you consider we were both rather the worse for wear – and it has proved to be a very successful strategy for improving my productivity. Question is, did I achieve my targets for 2015?

• The Challenge – Publish Running Out of Space
Nope. This was a decided fail and when it happened, felt like a devastating blow. I had intended – and announced – that I would self publish Running Out of Space, Book 1 of The Sunblinded in time for Fantasycon at the end of October. And I was fully geared up to do so – but fell at the very last fence due to a major glitch in getting it formatted. It was a nightmare, with the clock ticking and convinced it would only take one more major effort, I pulled three 20-hour days in a row trying to get it right. Only to face the fact that it just wasn’t going to happen – unless I shrugged my shoulders and let those occasional bolding/italicization errors remain. I was tempted. Truly. But when I went back to the uploaded version on my Kindle, I felt vaguely sick every time I flipped through the pages and came to those particular passages and knew that feeling would intensify tenfold if I took the decision to publish with those errors in place. So I took the decision not to do so and set off for Fantasycon without having Running Out of Space live and available. It hurt. So much so, that I woke up on the last day of the conference with a heavy head cold that lasted six weeks – and I think the fact it lasted so long was due to exhaustion, both physical and emotional.
However, I take comfort from the knowledge that I made the right decision – and that if I had gone ahead and published Running Out of Space with those errors in place, I would have bitterly regretted it.

• The Challenge – Complete first draft of Miranda’s Tempest
Yes – I managed to achieve this one. Ironically when I was so ill throughout November, I couldn’t sleep much or read – but the one thing that alleviated the misery was writing. So I dived back into this world which has been burning a steady hole in the back of my brain since I started it over a year ago and couldn’t get it right. I went back to the beginning and did a major rewrite, then powered on until I completed the manuscript. It is the most ambitious book I’ve attempted to date.
When teaching Shakespeare’s The Tempest as part of the GCSE syllabus, I always wondered about poor little Miranda. She has been running around an enchanted island, playing with spirits since she was three-years-old. And now, engaged to Prince Ferdinand of Naples, she is sailing off to become a 16th century princess in an Italian court. I never saw that one ending well… So I wrote her adventures, first as a short story, and then when the idea still wouldn’t leave me alone, made a start on the novel. I feel delighted I’ve managed to finish the first draft and am currently working on fine-tuning it, ready for submission.

• The Challenge – complete Chaos in New Cluster
This is the book my pal Michael Griffiths and me started writing a while ago, now. We are really, truly now on the last lap – but Mike has a new baby, so it is not a surprise that this one is still on the backburner. But the nice thing about this project is that it has been written in amongst all our individual writing activities, so if it takes a tad longer before it sees the light of day – so be it. It’s a bonus any way you look at it.

• The Challenge – Write at least 100 reviews for my blog
Done. Actually, I wrote 108 reviews, after reading 121 books, so I only achieved it by the skin of my teeth. This is the one target I haven’t bothered to strive for – I enjoy writing book reviews and I read for pleasure. It was a target I’d set in 2014 and achieved, so there was no point in changing it. But if I hadn’t met it, I wouldn’t have been unduly worried.

• The Challenge – Propose and plan Creative Writing courses for 2015/16
Done. I didn’t manage to get the courses written during the summer, as I had wanted, because I was busy on the final edits of Running Out of Space. In addition I was also very busy Grannying, which tends to drive a coach and horse through all my writing schedules. But I had a successful teaching year, with some new tweaks to make the classes more interactive which have proved popular and I’m pleased to say that both current courses are full.

• The Challenge – Submit Mantivore Eyes and Netted
Those of you kind enough to closely follow my blog will know this has been a major block for me – I am reasonably productive, but not terribly good at getting my work ‘out there’. I resolved to submit my work to at least 50 agents. And no – I didn’t achieve those numbers, BUT I did send out both manuscripts and received a number of nicely worded rejections along the lines of ‘this one isn’t for us, but please bear us in mind for your next project…’ and both manuscripts are currently under consideration.

Overall, despite the mess-up with Running Out of Space, it was a successful year for my writing. And the very good news is that my clever son managed to untangle the formatting issue for me over the Christmas holidays. As for my 2016 targets – I will be posting those at the end of January.

Shoot for the Moon 2015 – February Roundup

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These are the ambitious, writing-related goals I set myself to ensure I keep moving forward in my writing and teaching career. Last month I set the 2015 targets, which you can read here. So how am I getting on?

• Publish the Sunblinded trilogy
The fact that I didn’t manage to complete Breathing Space until the end of January is starting to catch up with me. moonEditing is a process that cannot be rushed. I’m going through the first book, Running Out of Space, and checking and correcting the Spanish phrases I’ve used with the help of the marvellous Mhairi Simpson. Apart from deciding never to do anything so stupid as to include a bunch of foreign phrases in a manuscript again, I am more or less on the home straight with ROOS. I’m hoping the same process will go faster and more smoothly with Dying for Space – one of the issues with Running Out of Space is that at one point it was with an American publisher and was formatted in American English. And I’m still tripping over the occasional American spelling…
I’ve nearly completed the corrections to my Spanish phrases in Running Out of Space and hope to have the m/s ready for my writing group next time we meet next week.

• Write at least 100 reviews for my blog
I’ve been reading some wonderful science fiction this year, so far and Daniel Polansky’s wonderful underworld trilogy has been a huge pleasure. One of the delightful consequences of steadily expanding my blog readership, is that I now regularly chat to other like-minded bloggers and book lovers… Thank you, those of you who take the time and effort to comment about various subjects related to reading and writing – and for Gloria Chao in nominating me for the Leibster Award, which I was delighted to receive…
I wrote 9 reviews during January, which came to just over 9,227 words. That includes a review of mine that I reblogged, after reading it to my granddaughter, as well as my response to the Leibster Award.

• Submit Mantivore Eyes and Netted
Yes – I’m actively seeking representation for these two novels and have been sending off submissions to agents… (Pauses to take in your stunned disbelief after a year of complete procrastination…) Of course it’s absolutely vital for professional writers to be prepared to roll up their sleeves and write the bleeping synopsis and query letter, rather than diving straight into another novel in the hope that my work will somehow seep into the consciousness of editors and agents ‘out there’. Fortunately, I’ve finally caught on that if I want an agent and a traditional publishing deal, I need to actually submit my work…
I’m working through a list I compiled in early January – and need to continue my initial strong start. NOTE TO SELF – one submission flurry does not constitute a sustained coherent search for a suitable agent…

Overall last month, I wrote just over 19,700 words and edited three manuscripts – Mantivore Dreams, Netted and Running Out of Space, totalling just over 250,000 words.

Shoot for the Moon 2015 Challenge – January Roundup

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Last year, egged on by fellow writer and partner in crime, Mhairi Simpson, I set some crazy writing-related goals, which I revisited every month to see how I was doing. It worked so well, that this year I decided to continue with yet another set of over-ambitious targets. So what are these goals?

• Publish the Sunblinded trilogy

Running Out of Space and Dying for Space had already been written, when last year I decided this would be my firstmoon foray into self publishing my work. So I needed to complete Jezell’s story arc in the last book, Breathing Space. I’d initially hoped to complete the manuscript by the end of 2014, but it kept running off and generally behaving badly. One of the reasons prompting me to publish this series is that I’ve wanted to write a science fiction crime series featuring a female PI – and using Jezell as that character is an obvious choice. I know all her gnarly secrets, and how she got them; and given that I’ve also written two other books in the same world, I’m also on more than nodding terms with how it works. So now comes the stupidly ambitious part – I intend to publish the Sunblinded trilogy in time for Fantasycon in the autumn, so with a following wind and the gods of editing being very obliging, the three books will probably appear during mid-August. My marvellous writing group have agreed to beta-read and nitpick the manuscripts for me – though if anyone else is interested in doing so, I’d – of course – be delighted to hear from you.
Managed to complete the first draft of Breathing Space in the last week of January. Just as well – I was considering battering my head against a brick wall to see if I could shake the dratted story free, as it took 25,500 words – and less than half of that wordcount made the manuscript…

• Write Miranda’s Tempest

I started this last year and got nearly three-quarters of the way through before hitting a wall. I knew I’d gone badly wrong, but was too close to figure out what it was. So plonked the manuscript into the Pending box, and sure enough, I now know where and how it went off the rails… As a fair amount of what I originally wrote can be recycled, it shouldn’t take too long, once I get going.
Just to see if I could – I sat down and rewrote the first chapter in present tense, first person pov and it was so much punchier, while still keeping the slightly formal feel I wanted. But won’t be tackling this in earnest until the Sunblinded trilogy is done and dusted…

• Complete Chaos in New Cluster

This is the novel my writing pal, Michael Griffiths, and I started last year, writing alternating chapters between us. It has been pushed onto the back burner rather a lot, but is in the closing stages, so it would be great to get the first draft done and dusted. And start on the editing runs…
Haven’t had a chance to get to grips with this one, yet.

• Write at least 100 reviews for my blog

I pulled this number out of thin air last year – and nailed it. In fact, I wrote 126 reviews last year, as I increasingly find writing about books I enjoy helps complete the reading experience for me. I did debate whether to extend the challenge to make it more… challenging. But just because last year I happened to hit this target doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll be able to do so with such ease this year – and as I find it really useful and fun to do, I don’t see the need to spoil it by placing undue pressure on a process that seems to work anyway.
I wrote 10 reviews during January, which came to just over 6,700 words. Half the books I completed in were by authors I hadn’t previously read – a promising beginning for my target to include more writers new to me in my reading pile.

• Propose and plan Creative Writing courses for the academic year 2015/16

I have already been thinking about next year’s courses. I really would like to have the course notes and plans written by the end of the summer holidays, but given I will be probably working flatout on getting three manuscripts ready to go at that stage, I’ll settle for having the Autumn term course good to go in plenty of time.

• Submit Mantivore Eyes and Netted

I attended a wonderful talk last year at Bristolcon by Jacey Bedford, who was very generous in telling us about her efforts to obtain an agent. She took us step by step through her approach and totally inspired me. As I want to be a hybrid author, with a traditional publishing deal in addition to my self publishing career, I’d like an agent. Up to now I’ve been rubbish at submitting my work – but this year, I’ve determined I will NAIL this target!
Nope. But then I spent January grappling with Breathing Space – and in order for a submission to be any good, I have to pay attention. I’m liable to make stupid mistakes, otherwise… Watch this space, though!

Overall last month, I wrote just over 37,400 words.

Shoot for the Moon Challenge – October Roundup

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This is just getting silly! ANOTHER month has slipped by and we’re now running towards the end of the year – when did that happen? So the ridiculously ambitious challenges I set myself at the start of the year, aided and abetted by my partner in crime Mhairi Simpson, are winding up, or down (depending on where you are standing). The idea was that if I set myself stupid-crazy goals and failed, I would still be further ahead than I would have been if my targets had been more sensible. What can I say? It was very, very late and we’d been drinking a LOT of strong tea…
• Breathing Space continues to throw me major curved balls. After the shenanigans at the start of the novel, when I ended up telling moonFAR too much, as opposed to showing the action – I’d got into the groove and had started congratulating myself on the steady progress I was making. When it all slid away in Chapter 19 and I wrote a left turn that wasn’t in the plan. I’m normally reasonably laid back about such a development – but this is the last book in a trilogy and I need to have all the major plotlines sorted out in 20,000/30,000 words’ time. And this is a MAJOR detour. So should I scrap all this hindbrain stuff and stick to the plan? Or go with the flow?

I stomped around feeling grumpy and off balance for a couple of days, while I debated what to do. Angry internal dialogues raged – I should be getting some RIGOUR in my writing! It’s all very well ‘trusting your creative instincts’ but is that going to cut it in a professional career? I am writing this book to a schedule and have undertaken to have the whole trilogy ready to be published by next July – what am I playing at, allowing a major new development with a character who will be my science fiction private investigator for – hopefully – a reasonably long-running series? However, one of the advantages in having written a ridiculous number of books is that I do know my own writing process reasonably well. And I decided to allow this development to run for the duration of the chapter and see whether it would be able to be tucked back under the control of the main plotline – and sure enough, by the middle of Chapter 21, I saw daylight emerging… Have to say – each novel is an adventure which doesn’t get any less exciting or white-knuckled.
Challenge – to have the first daft of Breathing Space completed by the end of the year. I think I should have the book finished by the end of next month – whether I’ll be a gibbering wreck by that stage is more debatable. This book has posed some interesting, gnarly issues…

• Nailed. Which isn’t surprising as this was the only challenge that didn’t really matter all that much.
Challenge – to write and publish 100 book reviews on my blog during 2014. I wrote another 14 reviews during October, taking my yearly target to date to 106 reviews. Those of you who kindly follow my blog know that I also posted my 555th blog this month.

• We have now reached half term and the course is going well. I am planning to make next term’s course more interactive with more time devoted to writing exercises – and I have also worked out what topics I want to cover next year, which is always handy…
Challenge – to have written at least two sets of course notes for the next academic year by the end of the summer break. Still hoping to have the Spring Term’s course notes written by the end of the month – although I have just taken on a major teaching commitment until Christmas that might derail this one.

• I’m refusing to beat myself up over this one. It’s been a major issue throughout the year – doing this mad exercise has thrown up a couple of big roadblocks to my writing career – and this is one of them… So I am now aware of just what a problem this is – next step is to devote a chunk of realistic time to address it.
Challenge – submit all my unsold short fiction and poetry. No.

Another interesting month. Breathing Space has certainly provided more than its fair share of excitement. That said, I managed to write 18,600 words this month, bringing the overall word count to just over 106,000 of the first draft – though I’ve junked around 30,000 words of that total. I also wrote 2,400 words on admin for my Creative Writing courses and around 10,600 words towards reviews and articles for the blog – this brought my monthly wordcount to just over 31,750 words and my yearly total to date to just over 258,900 words. I don’t think I need to necessarily work harder – but certainly a whole lot smarter… And that’s going to be my focus for next year.

Shoot for the Moon Challenge – August Roundup

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This is the insane soaring goal setting cooked up between Mhairi Simpson and myself in the depths of December. moonThe theory is that even if we miss, we’ll still be better off than if we’d been sensible more timid. So at the end of August – is anything going to plan? At all?

Breathing Space juddered to a complete halt during August. Busy with the course notes, madly loom-banding for yet another challenge (a grannying one), and with family commitments swallowing up chunks of time, the novel writing didn’t happen. Whether I can easily get back into Jezell’s world after my initial struggles to get going remains to be seen.
Challenge – to have the first daft of Breathing Space completed by the end of September. Not a chance in hell. I’ll be lucky to get it completed by the end of October.

• I set this challenge in the firm belief that I wouldn’t achieve it – and am still on course to complete it with ease… The one that doesn’t really matter *sigh…*
Challenge – to write and publish 100 book reviews on my blog during 2014. I wrote 5 reviews in August, bringing my yearly total to 81 so far.

• I completed my course handouts for this coming term – just as well as we start back in a fortnight. It took a bit longer than usual due to a very busy start to the month. I still have the lesson plans to write, but hopefully that won’t take more than a couple of days concentrated work.
Challenge – to have written at least two sets of course notes for the next academic year by the end of the summer break. Nope. But I have got this coming term’s notes written.

• Nope. Total failure. Nuff said…
Challenge – submit all my unsold short fiction and poetry.

A really frustrating month writingwise. Although all sorts of good things happened as a wife and granny (we got to see Kate Bush in concert on the opening night, for instance…). I wrote 5,000 words in book reviews and blogs this month and 6,500 words on my Creative Writing course, taking my monthly writing total to a paltry 11,500 words and my yearly total so far to just under 195,000.

The only good news about August’s dismal showing is that it can only get better…

Shoot for the Moon Challenge – February roundup

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Me and my writing buddy, Mhairi Simpson, have given ourselves an insanely ambitious set of 2014 writing targets, plastered moonacross the front of our computer monitors. The theory is that in striving to meet these aspirational goals, we’ll get a lot more achieved than we would otherwise have done, had we been more realistic… So how am I doing?

• I’ve been editing Netted throughout most of February, which proved a bit of a monster job… My timeline of where my four protagonists were throughout the book had disappeared, so I decided to redo it onto the computer. I searched until I found an Excel template that nonetheless looked rather complicated – so decided to do it in easy stages and start off by using TrackChanges to insert the date and time of day. This was so successful that I didn’t bother transposing it onto the Excel template and this is how I’m going to create all my novel timelines in future.  I discovered that I’d gone adrift in Chapter 27 and needed to add another day and night to line up the timelines of the kidnapped wife and her desperate husband trying to track her down, so needed to add another 4,000 words in a rewrite. And then had another couple of thorough edits, the last one being on Adobe using their Read Aloud facility to go through the manuscript, listening to the text while following each line on the monitor. Amazing how many stray and missing words I pick up that way…
Challenge – complete editing Netted by the end of February. Done.

• I set myself a rather random challenge for my blog this year – and amazingly, I’m still on track – despite having to do without my computer for a week in the middle of the month when the motherboard got a migraine.
Challenge – write and publish 100 reviews this year. I’ve written 10 this month, making 19 so far this year. Though this is REALLY one that is going to slip later when the weather gets better and I’m not reading so much, I’m sure.

• I’ve started work on next year’s Creative Writing course proposals for Northbrook and am also busy writing next term’s course notes, Thinking Like A Writer. These deadlines, of course, are set in stone. Nothing short of plague or famine can get in the way of these…

Challenge – submit all my unsold short fiction and poetry. Um. I’ve made a start. Submitted ‘Crow’s Revenge’… But this is one I’m REALLY failing. In my defence, having no computer for a whole week really put a dent in my work schedule. But next month I MUST have a lot more of my work ‘out there’. No excuses…

Overall this month, I wrote 16,300 words, which mostly was for my blog and my Creative Writing courses, bringing my yearly total to 49,800 words so far.