Tag Archives: Shoot for the Moon Challenge

Shoot for the Moon Challenge – October Roundup


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


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 – May Roundup


My writing buddy Mhairi Simpson and I decided way back last December to set ourselves some over-ambitious goals for 2014, so that in trying to achieve them, we’d get a great deal more done, than if we’d been more sensible. So now that May has flitted past so unacceptably quickly, how are my targets shaping up?

• I’d edited myself to a standstill combing Running Out of Space and Dying for Space for errors, so last month decided to start writing Breathing Space, the third book of the Sunblinded trilogy I plan to self publish by the end of the year. Have to say, it has been slow going – not helped when Scrivener had a fit and tucked away the first couple of chapters somewhere nifty and hidden on my hardrive… I’ve also junked a third of the 12,500 words I’ve written so far as it was basically writing-my-way-into-the-story bumph. Thanks to the wonderful Sarah Palmer, I’ve realised there should be a lot more tension between my protagonist and one of the key characters, so hopefully this month I should be able to really get cracking on this.
Challenge – Have first draft of Breathing Space completed by the end of August. In progress

• Mhairi is currently checking the Spanish phrases I’ve used in Running Out of Space to ensure they read right. So far, she reckons that while they are grammatically correct, they don’t all colloquially pass muster – not a surprise as it is a loong time since I studied Spanish. Then I’m turning the m/s over to my trusty editor…
Challenge – Have Running Out of Space edited and formatted, ready for publication by the end of the year. On target.

• I’m now blogging or reblogging every day, which has increased the flow of visitors to my site. I mostly write book reviews – but I did take a deep breath and wrote quite a personal blog on my son’s birthday. At the start of this Shoot the Moon Challenge, I confidently predicted that this particular target would utterly fail, but eerily, I am STILL on track, having written 13 book reviews this last month.
Challenge – to write and publish 100 book reviews on my blog during 2014. In progress, as I’ve already written 54 reviews.

• With only a handful of weeks left to go before this year’s Creative Writing classes finish at Northbrook College, I’m starting to evaluate the overall experience. I’m blessed with a wonderful set of students – they are all enthusiastic and open to different forms of writing, which makes them great fun to teach.
Challenge – Successfully complete this year’s Creative Writing classes. In Progress.

• Along with the rest of the West Sussex Writers’ committee, I have been reading through the entries for our National Competition. During May we produced our longlist, which we reread and marked. A great effort by everyone involved – we work really well together. So the shortlist is now ready – yay!
Challenge – Read and mark entries for the West Sussex Writers National Short Story Competition. Completed.

• I owe Michael D. Griffithsmoon – my writing buddy and co-writer of our humorous, post-apocalyptic science fiction novel – Chapter 21 of Chaos in New Cluster. What with the WSW Short Story Competition and the glitches in starting Breathing Space, I didn’t so much drop this ball as never picked the damn thing up. At all…
Challenge – To complete the first draft of Chaos in New Cluster this side of Christmas. It’s still doable, but only if I get a serious wriggle on and write Ch. 21 this month.

• I undertook to submit all my available short fiction and poetry. And I’ve failed. Again. Have to say that I debated leaving this section out. But there’s no point in giving a Roundup if I don’t come clean about the failures as well as the successes, is there? It takes a LOT of time to comb through likely publications and see what I have that will fit – and it’s time I just don’t have right now.
Challenge – To submit all my short fiction and poetry to suitable publications and/or competitions… Bah – humbug!

This month has been a mixed bag… I bought and started using Scrivener, which has been a rather lumpy experience although it’s getting smoother. I’ve written 26,000 words this month, with Breathing Space taking 12,800 words, 7,300 words going towards writing blogs and book reviews, and 5,800 words on administration tasks towards my Creative Writing courses. This takes my 2014 wordcount so far to 114,000.

Shoot for the Moon Challenge – April Roundup


At the end of last year, I and Mhairi Simpson decided to aim for insanely ambitious targets, using the theory that in an effort to achieve them, we would get more done than if we had been more sensible in our goal-setting. It does make more sense as a strategy at 3 am after having downed several mugs of strong Assam – really… So how are things working out?

  • I am giving myself a rest from editing both Running Out of Space and Dying for Space as I’d got to a point where I couldn’t see the story for the words… Challenge – have both Running Out of Space and Dying for Space completed, including edits, by the end of April – In Progress.
  • I wrote 12 reviews in April and am now posting something on my blog every day – including my reviews. Challenge – to write and publish 100 book reviews in 2014 on my blog. For the 4th month in a row, this target is on track…
  •  My Summer Term Creative Writing courses started this week, so I am still working on the related admin. In April, I ran a Therapeutic Life Writing 1 day course with a colleague, who is also a trained counsellor – it was an amazing roller-coaster experience, and we have had some very positive feedback so now want to make it a regular occurrence for those who attended. Challenge – to run our 1 Day Therapeutic Life Writing course. Lyn and I have been working on this for over a year and were excited about its power to help people in a difficult place emotionally. I am very proud that we successfully started this project – and I couldn’t wish for a better partner. Achieved and ongoing.
  • West Sussex Writers ran a national Short Story competition with a 3,000 word limit – no, I didn’t submit (more on that later…). As a member of the committee, I was part of the reading team tasked with compiling the long list, so during April ended up reading fifty-something short stories and marking them. It has taken up a lot of time, as obviously, it isn’t something to be rushed. Our team have now completed the first read-through, and will shortly be working on the long list. Challenge – to read and mark entries for the West Sussex Writers’ National Short Story Competition. In Progress.
  • I am team-writing a book with author Michael D. Griffiths moon– we started a crazy thread when we both were members of SFReader.com and found that we thoroughly enjoyed the fact that when we write together, we produce something completely different from our normal output. This was a book we started a couple of years ago – since then Life has intruded and we haven’t managed to complete it as fast as we would have liked. But Chaos in New Cluster is now approaching the final climax and I am working on Chapter 21. Hope to have it back to Mike within the next couple of weeks. Challenge – to finish the first draft of Chaos in New Cluster during 2014. In Progress.
  • I undertook to submit all my short fiction and poetry to magazines or competitions and this month I’ve failed AGAIN. Miserably… I MUST knuckle down and put in the hours it takes to comb through and find suitable markets, then edit/adjust my work accordingly. AND SEND IT OUT! Challenge – to submit all my short fiction and poetry to magazines or competitions. Failed AGAIN!!

During April, I wrote a paltry 15,000 words, most of which were book reviews, taking my yearly total to a mere 88,500 words. Have to say, I’ve been trudging towards the computer these last couple of weeks as the admin tasks have stacked up. So instead of being all sensible about clearing the decks, etc – after writing this, my instinct is just to plunge into Breathing Space as the buzz of writing will probably mean I’ll power through the admin that at present seems like a dreary slog.

Shoot for the Moon Challenge – March Roundup


At the end of last year, Mhairi Simpson and I decided to really go for it in 2014 and give ourselves a stupidly ambitious set of goals that we would inevitably miss – but in doing so would still be far ahead of where we’d be if we’d played safer… Have to say, there are times when explaining it to other people, I realise the pair of us might have been a bit more stoked on Very Strong Tea (we’re both addicts) than we were aware of.

• I seem to have been stuck in Editland forever… I’m now working through Dying for Space, the second book in the Sunblinded moontrilogy. I spent a week going through Running Out of Space, the first book, and will return to it again. I find it easier to edit if I focus on a particular issue – like checking that all commas and full stops are in the right place in dialogue scenes, for instance. I have to be sharp when editing, and this month I’ve been spending a lot of time painting a garden fence that seems to morph into the Great Wall of China as soon as I pick up the brush. It’s taking a looong time – a bit like the editing. I’m hoping to have Running Out of Space as error-free as I can make it by the end of April. Dying for Space may take a bit longer.
Challenge – Have both Running Out of Space and Dying for Space edited, ready for publication by the end of April. In progress.

• I set myself a random challenge – to write and publish a 100 book reviews during 2014, confident that this is one I would miss by a mile. Yet I am bang on target – still! I wrote 12 reviews this month. I still think that this is one that will slip as the year progresses – during March I took an extra Creative Writing class and in the period between the afternoon and evening sessions, I’ve been relaxing and reading, instead of slogging through the rush hour traffic home and back again.
Challenge – Write and publish 100 book reviews this year. I’m on target with my reading and writing – but slightly behind with my publishing schedule.

• Next term’s course notes and lesson plans are completed and photocopied. Just as well – both classes are full… I just have to update my Scheme of Work, which is one of the chores for the Easter break.

• I’ve now got an Excel spreadsheet set up to keep track of my short fiction and poetry submissions, and have made a start, albeit paltry – 3 stories and 1 poem are Out There. Promise to do better during April!
Challenge – submit all my unpublished short stories and poems. In progress.

During March, I wrote 24,500 words. Most of this word count went towards writing my course notes and lesson plans and the rest was my blog, bringing my current yearly total to 74,300 words.

Shoot for the Moon Challenge – February roundup


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.

Shoot for the Moon Challenge – January Update


I may have mentioned that in early January – carried away in the euphoria of seeing the back of 2013 and under the influence of my moonbuddy Mhairi Simpson – I agreed to set myself stupidly ambitious writing targets. The theory is that in striving to get somewhere near these ridiculous challenges, I will achieve a great deal more than if I had decided to give myself more realistic deadlines.

So now that January has just been and gone (and how come it flitted by so damn fast?) I thought I’d provide a short overview of where I am in comparison to where I hoped to be…

• This month I’ve written nearly 15,000 words towards Miranda’s Tempest, my current Work in Progress. However, it needs some significant rewriting which I want to complete before starting the final story arc – so I want to step away to give myself a chance to do a brief edit, which I cannot do while I’m writing it… This may sound mad, but when I write a novel really fast – I began Miranda in the middle of October and have written 75,000 words so far, which is quick for me – I often find that there are aspects that are glossed/neglected and need further attention. Because the ending of this book is particularly climactic and shocking, I want to have all the major elements working their passage before embarking on the last story arc. Hence the break.
Challenge – to have the first draft of Miranda’s Tempest completed before Easter. So far, I’m on track – though I have some editing jobs coming up, which will require my full attention.

• I’m now editing Netted, which is going well and I have reached the final chapter, which needs some rewriting/additional scenes to elongate the final story arc. At present the action is too rushed, impacting on the climax and affecting the final character development of two of the main protagonists. Because I have chopped about some of scenes, I am having to rejig the timeline – which is a major pain because the initial handwritten version has gone missing, so I am going to do this one from scratch on the computer. No point in kicking the furniture about it (it hurts my toes too much for starters…) and while going through the whole m/s to redo the timeline, I’m turning this into a virtue by taking the opportunity to double-check that all 4 protagonists are in the right place at the right time. So it may be a fiddle, but it’s necessary…
Challenge – to have Netted fully ready for submitting by the end of February. Hm. This could be tight, but so far isn’t impossible.

• I’ve written nine book reviews so far this year – it’s been a bit of a shock to discover how many words I write on my blog – just under 10,000 for January.
Challenge – to write 100 book reviews this year. Currently on track – but not holding my breath that I’ll achieve this…

Overall this month, I’ve written 33,500 words, including handouts, lesson plans, schemes of work, etc for this term’s Creative Writing course at Northbrook.

Challenge – to submit all my available poems and short stories. Nope. Complete failure – I haven’t subbed so much as one… So during February I need to make this a priority.

That’s where I am to date. I’m fully expecting the gap between what I’m aiming for and what I manage to do to steadily widen as the year progresses – but to be honest I’m more than happy with the start I’ve made and feel really excited about my writing at present.

Anyone else given themselves massive challenges for 2014? And it doesn’t have to include tapping away madly at a keyboard for hours on end…