Tag Archives: Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2015

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


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 Challenge 2015 – November Roundup


This was certainly an odd month… On one hand, I went down with a really nasty head cold like a sack of spanners. Try as I might I could NOT shake off the damn thing, which continued on and on moonthroughout the whole month. It pervaded my whole existence, turning my lessons – which I normally love – into a dreary trudge as I struggled with a blocked nose, temperatures and persistent sore throat. BUT on the other hand, while feeling so grim the only refuge was to get lost in writing. So I did…

• As I mentioned last month, my plans to get Running Out of Space fully formatted and self published in time for Fantasycon landed in a heap when I encountered a corrupted file and as this was my first time, I hadn’t realised it until after 3 twenty-hour days in a row trying to get it right… After returning from Fantasycon and while struggling with my cold, I wasn’t up to facing the fiddly job of formatting – yet again. So decided to put this project on the back-burner until the New Year. December is always crazy-busy with more than half the family birthdays occurring throughout the month and then there’s the small disruption of Christmas. I am not going to put myself through the madness of the run-up to Fantasycon again if I can avoid it.
Challenge – To have Running Out of Space – Sunblinded: 1 published by the end of the year. I’ve failed at this major target, but I’ve learnt so much in the process that while I won’t deny it felt like a huge defeat at the time – it isn’t the end of the world. Better by far to delay the project to ensure the book is something I’ll be proud to share with the rest of the world, than to fling it out on Amazon with major formatting issues, regarding the italicisation – which was my biggest bugbear. I’ve also decided to bring out the whole trilogy together in 2016, with, hopefully, Bloodless, the first book in the follow-up space opera crime series ready to go  at the start of 2017.

• Due to the cold and the fact the only time I felt remotely human was when sitting at the computer lost in my own world, I spent the month writing. The result was I managed to complete the first draft of Miranda’s Tempest. This is a huge deal for me. This book has been boring holes in my skull for most of the year after I screeched to a halt with it in February and hadn’t had a chance to go back to the start, work out where I went wrong and put it right. Even so, the last chapter took 4 goes before I was happy with it – and I’m still unsure whether I’ve completely pulled it off… But I do know I’m very proud of the book and think it is the best thing I’ve written so far, once I’ve completely tidied it up, of course.
I also managed a major rewrite of a space opera romp I wrote years ago and stuffed in the back of a virtual drawer. Dusting it off, I realised it wasn’t as dire as I’d recalled – in fact once I addressed my tendency to repeat all the major events three times in three different ways – the narrative and characters work very well. It was also the last time I wrote anything in third person pov and I’m also pleasantly surprised how successful it was.
Challenge – to complete Miranda’s Tempest by the end of the year. Yep. Ticked that box:). Also dusted off and edited/rewrote Unearthly Things Above, which way back when, was on DAW’s ‘seriously considered’ heap for a while after I submitted it to their slush pile. No wonder they passed on it, given how overwritten it was!

• I read 11 books and wrote 8 reviews during November, which brings my annual total to date of 100 written reviews.
Challenge – To review a minimum of 100 books during 2015. Nailed that one…

With a chunk of my teaching commitment on hold – I could not possibly risk giving the boy I tutor my monster cold – I only wrote 3,400 words on admin, my blog took just over 7,000 words. But my wordcount for writing my own work was just over 91,800 words. Yes… my jaw dropped too. I have to say that while I was certainly on a roll, it didn’t feel unduly difficult. Hopefully I won’t get that ill again for a while – but at least it wasn’t a complete bust. That now brings my yearly total to date to just over 314,000 words.

Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2015 – October Roundup


It was a busy old month and I missed one of my main targets for the year. Which was to get Running Out of Space published in time to have it available as an ebook for Fantasycon. So what happened next?

• It’s certainly been a roller-coaster month and I was lined up, all ready to go. The cover is just what I wanted – eye-catching and genre appropriate, yet simple enough to look really good as a thumbnail, thanks to the wonderful moonJanet Sked. Mhairi Simpson had helped me get started on the formatting, which was always going to be a major headache, given the number of foreign phrases and internal dialogue running through the book. I couldn’t get it to upload without it looking a dog’s breakfast on my Kindle and when Mhairi rootled around, we discovered the progam we’d been using had become corrupted. And at that stage, I decided with only a couple of days to go before we set off for Nottingham, I’d rather step away, take some deep calming breaths and sort it out when I got back.

When we sat down and discussed the situation after Fantasycon, I decided that I’d rather publish the whole Sunblinded trilogy together – while it won’t be in 2015, it shouldn’t take all that long as I’m well on the way with editing Dying For Space and Breathing Space should be a lot more straightforward, anyway.
• Challenge – To have Running Out of Space – Sunblinded: 1 published by Fantasycon. Nope. This one is a bust for the year. Still, I’ve plenty to be getting on with…

• I read 9 books and wrote 8 reviews during October, bring my annual total to date of 92 written reviews. So it looks as though this target will be met during the month. Oh well, nice to meet this one, I suppose.
Challenge – To review a minimum of 100 books during 2015. In progress…

Inevitably, this month it’s been all about Running Out of Space, other than Fantasycon, which was great fun and a welcome break from all the pressure. I’ve written about it in more detail here.

My wordcount in October is fairly paltry. Again, I wrote next to nothing creatively in October, other than some rewrites and a few bits for the preliminary pages in Running Out of Space, which came to just under 3,500 words. My blogs totalled just over 6,000 words and my teaching admin wordcount came to just over 8,500 words, bringing my monthly total for October to just over 18,000 words and my yearly total to date to just over 212,000 words.

Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2015 – September Roundup


We are hurtling towards Fantasycon 2015 at breakneck speed. Am I going to get Running Out of Space published in time to have it available as an ebook at the Con?
• Hm. Still not sure. I’ve completed the line edit and now will be handing over to uber-editor and word-wrangler, moonMhairi Simpson to cast her picky, experienced gaze over the manuscript. She has already spanked the Spanish phrases into submission, bless her. I still have the glossary of Spanish words and phrases to compile and the preliminary pages to sort out. The book cover design is being finalised by the awesome Janet Sked and Mhairi has also finessed my design of the logo for Griffinwing Publishing, my self-publishing imprint. It all feels very grown up and exciting. I have a reading slot at Fantasycon on Saturday night, at 8.20 pm, so if you’re at a loose end and fancy coming along to hear a slice of Running Out of Space, you’ll be very welcome.
• Challenge – To have Running Out of Space – Sunblinded: 1 published by Fantasycon. Probably…

• I read 13 books and wrote 11 reviews during September. More or less on target with this one.
Challenge – To review a minimum of 100 books during 2015. In progress…

• The new academic year is in full swing and both classes are settling in well. While the new classroom isn’t quite as convenient or roomy as the previous one, it is large enough and while it tends to be a bit stuffy with the warm autumn sunshine, at least it will be cosier in winter.
Challenge – To strive to make my Creative Writing courses enjoyable and informative for my students.

Inevitably, this month it’s been all about Running Out of Space. I did take the week-end off to go to Bristolcon a couple of weeks ago – which was so worth it. Every year I come away from this friendly, eventfill Con buzzed and enthused from having met so many lovely folks and the panel subjects were outstanding – read about it here.

As for writing – I had a couple of ideas that were rattling around my skull until I got them down on paper, but that only amounted to a paltry 3,500 words. Other than that, it was all about the editing. I wrote just over 6,000 words reviewing books and blogging this month. As I’d expected, the majority of my writing and a fair chunk of time and mental energy went on writing course notes and admin for my teaching commitments, which amounted to just over 15,000 words, bringing my monthly total in September to around 25,000 and my yearly total to date to just over 193,000 words.

Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2015 – August Roundup


We are sliding into autumn after a thoroughly grotty summer, apart from a glorious fortnight at the start of July, which is now a distant memory. So how are the crazy writing targets I set with the aid of my friend and encourager, Mhairi Simpson?

• I have just completed the first major edit of Dying For Space. The good news is that it is better than I remember moonand wasn’t riddled with a lot of the errors plaguing Running Out of Space. Mhairi has just returned the manuscript of Running Out of Space having done a wonderful job checking the Spanish phrases in it (someone hit me with a very big brick if I ever waffle about dotting another series with a lot of foreign phrases, again. Particularly if said foreign phrases are accompanied with accents all over the place…) and also suggesting some improvements, bless her. However she really enjoyed reading it, which is heartening! Having Running Out of Space ready for Fantasycon should be doable. I now need to turn my attention to stuff like ISBN numbers and book covers… As for Dying for Space – not so sure. But I’m continuing to work hard at it.
Challenge – To have first two books of The Sunblinded Trilogy published by Fantasycon. Hm. Watch this space…

• I wrote 10 reviews during July and read 11 books. Still not sure I’ll make this target, but it’s not one I’m going to lie awake worrying over.
Challenge – To review a minimum of 100 books during 2015. In progress…

• I am now gearing myself up for the new academic year, now writing the notes for my Creative Writing course on viewpoint and narrative time and during the next fortnight I have a series of planning and training meetings to attend.
Challenge – To strive to make my Creative Writing courses enjoyable and informative for my students. I’m really looking forward to meeting up with everybody in a couple of weeks.

I’ve found editing the first two books in The Sunblinded Trilogy incredibly hard work. For starters, I cannot get my head down and simply plough forward, as I do when I’m writing. I have to keep breaking off, or it’s pointless. While my editing skills have dramatically improved and I quite enjoy it these days, I’m really missing writing. But I simply cannot start another project, while my head is in Jezel’s world… The curse of the ultimate monotasker.

I spent a fair chunk of time grannying over the summer, which is a joy. But I sometimes wish I had a writing clone to continue toiling away at the computer at the same time. I wrote just over 10,000 words reviewing books and blogging this month and 7,200 words on rewrites on Dying for Space. It is a delight to announce that during August, I didn’t write a single word on teaching admin, which will doubtless rapidly be rectified during the coming month. So the total wordcount for August is a paltry 17,000 words, bringing my yearly total to date to 168,500 words.

Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2015 – May Roundup


At the end of yet another month, how am I doing with my series of my ambitious targets? Hm. Not brilliantly. Family commitments have to come first, of course and during May they featured fairly heavily.

• I have had some extremely detailed feedback on Running Out of Space from two of my marvellous beta readers, so I’m in the throes of addressing some of the issues they suggested I revisit and fix. It’s been very helpful to be able to give the manuscript a thorough going-over before presenting it to another wonderful writing friend who has agreed to comb through it for me. As for the other two manuscripts – I’m still in the very early stages of knocking them into shape.
Challenge – To have my science fiction series, The Sunblinded Trilogy,moon ready to publish by the end of August. A target that is looking increasingly unrealistic. I’ll keep working as hard as I can to get the books ready, but obviously the requirement is to have the books as polished and readable as possible. It would be completely daft to compromise the quality of my writing for the sake of a timescale.
• I wrote eight reviews this month, so I’m still on target for the year. Although I’ve noticed that so far this year, I’ve read and reviewed 9 less books than this time last year.
Challenge – To review a minimum of 100 books during 2015. I should still easily fulfil this target, unless something major happens before the end of the year.
• I am still in the process of submitting Mantivore Dreams and Netted to agents.
Challenge – To seek and procure representation for at least one of my novels. Still ongoing.
• As the academic year at Northbook College draws to a close, I have an opportunity to judge whether this year’s courses have been successful. Overall, I think they have worked. The interactive nature of this term’s course has meant I have had to alter my working methods more than I’d initially anticipated and it should run more smoothly next year. But I am definitely going to give it another go. The students seem to have found it an enjoyable and stimulating experience to share their favourite authors with the rest of the class and I have found it fascinating and enlightening to observe the wide variation in choices.
Challenge – To make this term’s Creative Writing courses more interactive.

In addition, I gave a talk to West Sussex Writers’ in May, along with my committee colleague and computer guru, Ian Black, on the available technology to help writers. It took us a while to organise and design a structure so we could deliver the information in the most user-friendly way, but it was evidently worth the effort as the talk was received positively by the membership.

It’s a busy time of year. My teaching commitments are intense right now, the garden needs knocking into shape if it is going to be anything other than unruly jungle for the rest of the summer, and Family need more of my time than I’d anticipated. But then, that’s Life isn’t it? Unpredictable, often frustrating and taking me off into unexpected directions. And if that didn’t happen, I’d be a diminished, narrower version of myself. That’s what I keep telling myself, anyway. Though I’d LOVE a clone to get on with all those boring-but-vital chores that still need doing.

In the meantime, I wrote just over 9,000 words on books reviews in May and just under 11,500 words on my teaching courses, bringing my word count to date to around 106,500 words. There’s been one bright spot in my creative landscape. I am not a brilliant poet, but sporadically the idea for a poem rattles around in my head until I do something about it. As submitting to magazines takes time and organisation that I currently don’t have, I’ve been posting some of my poems on my blog. This has prompted me to tidy up and thoroughly edit some of my rougher-edged efforts. Thank you for the kind comments and Likes some of you have taken the trouble to leave. It was unexpected and very cheering.

Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2015 – April Roundup


We are now a third of the way through 2015, though that fact alone has me shaking my head in moondisbelief and wondering if Dr Who has been messing with the Time/Space continuum again… So how am I doing with the stupid ambitious challenges I set myself on New Year’s Eve, which was SURELY only the day before yesterday?
• I’ve gone through Dying For Space once, but this has been a particularly busy month. In addition to starting the summer term at Northbrook College, I also went on a wonderful short-break holiday to Venice with my family. So I need to refocus on the manuscript, printing it out and slashing passages with my pencil – I really haven’t found a better way to do it… I’ve had some thoughts about the book covers and need to get cracking on sorting those out, too.
Challenge – to have all three books of The Sunblinded Trilogy ready for self-publication by August. Um. Right now I’m not convinced I’ll make it. However, I should have Running Out of Space ready to go. I’m still waiting for feedback from my beta readers, brave souls that they are. And of course, if a major rewrite is necessary, then timescales may need some more shifting about.
• I’ve written 9 reviews this month, which means that my target of writing 100 reviews this year is still on track – although again I was a tad dismayed by the number of books I started and didn’t finish. But as I’m now reading more authors new to me, it is inevitable I suppose.
Challenge – to write and publish 100 book reviews on my blog during 2015. So far, on target…
• I’ve been submitting Mantivore Dreams and Netted to agents and now I’m in the situation where I’m waiting for responses. I’ve been impressed with the speed and efficiency with which my submissions have been dealt with, but obviously when a manuscript has been requested, it’s bound to take a little longer.
Challenge – to continue submitting Mantivore Dreams and Netted until I manage to get representation. Still ongoing.
• The new term has now started at Northbrook and I have slightly changed the structure to make the course a bit more interactive. Many of my students are regulars, who have been coming to the courses for several years. I wanted to take account of this and change things around a bit. I’ve now been teaching at Northbook for 6 years and I don’t want to fall into any kind of rut.
I am also now working one-to-one with a young student. It’s enormously rewarding, but takes a great deal of effort and thinking time to get absolutely nailed.
Challenge – to keep abreast of all my teaching commitments.

I’m finding Life a bit of a trudge at the moment, to be honest. I haven’t written anything creative other than a couple of poems now since the end of January and although I’ve tried – I cannot write anything worth the name while I’m hacking through the thickets of Editland. I’m the ultimate monotasker. It’s always been something of a handicap, but right now is really biting me in the bottom as my brain is starting to chew on itself while I’m not writing anything creative. It may well be for this reason alone, I’ll miss my target of getting the Sunblinded trilogy self-published by August. While I’m adorable, of course, right now I’m liable to suddenly morph into Bitchqueen of the Universe. And I love Himself too much to unleash Bitchqueen onto him more than is absolutely necessary…

I wrote just under 7,600 words in book reviews and blogs this month, my Northbrook and teaching commitments took just over 8,000 words, which makes my monthly writing total around 15,600 words and my yearly total so far to just under 85,000.

Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2015 – March Roundup


This is my monthly report of how I’m getting on in relation to the very ambitious goals I set with the moonhelp of Mhairi Simpson, outstanding taskmaster friend and writing confidante on New Year’s Eve. So now we’re a quarter of the way through the year – when did THAT happen? – how am I doing?
• I’ve now completed editing Running Out of Space, which is now being read by my Writing Group and some hardy volunteers (many, many thanks – you know who you are…). So have turned my attention to Dying for Space. As we’ve just started the Easter holidays and I’ve been grannying, I haven’t really had the chance to turn my full attention to the manuscript. I’m a bit behind where I wanted to be, but I’m hoping that once I get down to it, the manuscript will pose less problems than Running Out of Space – at least there won’t be any errant Americanisms to chase down and eradicate!
Challenge – to have all three books of The Sunblinded Trilogy ready for self publication by August. It’s going to be tight, but I think it’s still doable. I have a fallback position if Breathing Space proves to be too much of a task to knock into shape within the timeframe as I have NO intention of releasing anything that is not the best I can possibly make it.
• I’ve written 10 reviews this month for my blog, which means that my target of writing 100 reviews this year is still on track – although I was slightly hampered as I read a string of books I didn’t like enough to complete. It doesn’t happen to me very often, but I found it rather annoying – and disappointing. But it is an inevitable consequence of reading more books from authors I haven’t previously encountered
Challenge – to write and publish 100 book reviews on my blog during 2015. So far, so good – but I’m very aware that at this stage plenty could happen to derail this particular target.
• I’m still sending submissions to agents for Mantivore Dreams and Netted and took part in the amazing PITMAD event on Twitter, which was so much fun and a great experience. However, I’ve been careful in selecting agents who I really believe would be a good match for my genre and my personality – it seems pointless to carpetbomb every agent who is looking to expand their lists, regardless of whether I think we’d work well together. And if that sounds like an excuse… well, I’m still on the case.
Challenge – to continue submitting Mantivore Dreams and Netted until I get representation. Still ongoing.
• I now need to roll up my sleeves and get cracking on my course notes and lesson plans for next term. I have now taken on another part-time teaching post which will, hopefully, continue for another several years until the youngster has attained his GCSE’s.
Challenge – to get the course notes and lesson plans written this month for the summer term.

Things are ticking over. While editing is no longer the loathed task it used to be, I still far prefer writing than word-combing my manuscripts. I know I need to shake the sense that I’m only ‘properly’ working when I’m writing the first draft – it clearly isn’t the case, but it still somehow feels like it.

I wrote just over 7,700 words in book reviews and blogs this month, my Northbrook and teaching commitments took just over 4,000 words, which makes my monthly writing total around 11,800 words and my yearly total so far to just over 69,000.