2020 Writing Goals – Mid-year Check-in

A photo with a phone, computer keyboard, headphones and a notebook and pen. The text reads "2020 Writing Goals"

At the start of this year, some writer friends and I chose a word as the theme for the coming 12 months. Mine was LEARN.

With everything that’s gone on in the past few months, I’ve been doing a fair amount of learning, not just about writing but life in general. Learning how to make work from home, well, work. Learning how to deal with two of us working from home and therefore being in each other’s space a lot more than usual. Learning how to fit creativity in around added stress levels (there has been a lot of ebb and flow).

Here we are at the halfway point in the year. In some ways, it feels like the last six months have dragged on beyond belief, and in other ways it feels like it has flown by. But it’s definitely a good time to check in on the goals I set myself at the start of the year.

Writing

  • Don’t sign up for any challenges with arbitrary goals, e.g. word count goals

Okay, I briefly did sign up for one. In April? No, I think it was May. It was a 500-words-a-day challenge, and I managed it for a little while but ran out of steam about halfway through the month. I’ve been doing a lot of “authoring” (what the #6amAusWriters group calls any non-literally-writing writing business) this year, so making sure I don’t get caught up in challenges has definitely bene important.

  • Submit stories to four anthologies or short story competitions

I’ve just got beta reader feedback back on what will be my third submission for the year. This will be going to Globe Soup’s 2020 Summer Short Story Competition. I signed up for this because I was feeling uncreative, and thought that the push of having to pay the sign-up fee before finding out what country was the theme for this year might have given me a good push. It turned out to be a country I know nothing about, so I don’t think the story is my best work. But still, it’s something I wrote. The results come out on July 22, so we’ll see.

I’m also working on a short story for the Scarlet Stiletto Awards, which are run by Sisters in Crime Australia. The rules are that all authors must be female-identifying, as must the main character in the story, and the story must involve a crime or mystery element of some sort (they are a crime-writing organisation after all). There’s a cross-genre category, so I am trying my hand at a fantasy mystery involving a stolen dragon egg.

  • Finish the first draft of Facing the Music

I guess I need to readjust this goal. I sort of consider the first draft finished, even though it isn’t complete. I made a spreadsheet with a short summary of every scene and the characters involved a little while ago. I realised I had a lot of filler scenes, and a lot of the plot has changed in my mind since I wrote the first draft. There didn’t seem to be much point in writing the ending and pretending I’d made all those changes before I had.

So once I finish my Scarlet Stiletto submission, my plan is to come back to this. I’m going to go back through the original spreadsheet and make a new one, getting rid of unnecessary scenes, adapt the ones that need adapting, and then start working on new content. Eeeeee!

Learning’

  • Listen to two episodes of a writing or publishing podcast each week.
  • Complete Ingram Spark’s self-publishing short courses (there are three and all take under 2 hours to complete)
  • Complete self-publishing course on Australian Writers Centre.
  • Complete at least one other short course on self-publishing/book design (e.g. through LinkedIn Learning)

Given my spiel at the top of this post, it’s a shame the active learning goals I set myself have fallen off the radar a bit. To be honest, I’d completely forgotten these goals.

Having said that, I did do Bryan Cohen’s 5 Day Amazon Ad Profit Challenge in April and I intend to participate again in July. This was why I was hoping to have A More Complicated Fairytale re-organised by July (see below). I have updated the blurb in the lead-up to the current challenge, so we’ll see if that affects sales.

I’m still booked in for Ellie Marney’s self-publishing boot camp, which was rescheduled to October, but I’ve still got no idea whether that will be offered online or whether I’ll be expected to travel down to Melbourne for it (and whether I’ll be willing to make that trip if it comes to it).

I’ll have to have a good think about how to work these other goals into my schedule.

Publishing

  • Give A More Complicated Fairytale some love. 

I have registered with Thorpe-Bowker and have an ISBN assigned to A More Complicated Fairytale so that I can publish it outside of Amazon. I had plans of doing that in July but with July upon us, that might not happen yet. I need to finish re-formatting the paperback and still commission a cover before I can start publicising it. Still, progress is progress!

In the process of reformatting it, I’ve also been reading it for the first time since it was released in 2016. There are scenes I’d entirely forgotten! While I am sure that I could write the same book but better with the skills I’ve learned in the intervening time, I’m sticking to just lightly editing it. I don’t want to change it too much from what people have already read, but wow, past-Emily used a lot of weak and filler words!

  • Self-publish Operation: Sugarplum as an ebook once Christmas: Australis exclusivity period ends.

I’m actually intending to do this around Christmas time. Maybe late November or even early December. I could do a Christmas in July type release, but I think actual Christmas would be better. I’ve also got a sequel in progress that I’d like to have ready to go not too much later, maybe January/February. Fingers crossed I have that one ready by then.

  • Compile short stories that don’t get accepted elsewhere into my own collection (if some do get accepted, maybe this could be pushed out until other exclusivity periods end).

I said in my January 1 post that this goal would depend on a number of things such as whether any stories got accepted, how many I actually wrote, that sort of thing. At the moment I don’t really have enough for a collection and if I’m planning to get back to novel-writing after my current WIP, then I think this will have to wait a while. I can have it as a long-term goal.

So that’s where I am at the moment. Looking over everything now, I think I’ve actually had a pretty decent six months writing-wise. Given everything that’s going on in the world, it would have been easy to never pick up the metaphorical pen at all.

Here’s hoping for another six months of fair-to-decent progress and some finished WIPs!

Writing Update – 18 May 2020

Does anyone else feel like time is passing at twice its usual speed lately? I don’t know. I’m finding it all very confusing, and I can’t believe it’s been two weeks since my last post!

I’ve been doing some work on the A More Complicated Fairytale book description. When I was doing Bryan Cohen’s five-day Amazon Ads Profit Challenge last month, I realised how lacking my description was. There were no stakes at all! Nothing to make a reader smash that one-click purchase button! While I learned a lot in the April challenge, I’ve signed up to do it again when it runs in July, meaning I’ve got until then to get my re-launch ready.

I don’t know whether I mentioned here that I bought my first ten-pack of ISBNs recently, too? That certainly made me feel all professional author-like! Previously, AMCF has only ever been published through Amazon, so I just used the Amazon-supplied ISBNs. But now that I’m taking it wide, I need to look after that myself.

I’ve been also been adding words to my as yet untitled sequel to Operation: Sugarplum. I’ve realised that my antagonist is rather… un-antagonistic, so I’ve had to have a bit of a think and up the ante on this one.

Here’s an excerpt I posted on Facebook last week. A glitch in the game means Clara has woken up inside a non-player-character (NPC) in the virtual reality fairy tale game.

Max’s mind raced. He couldn’t wake Clara up outside the game. Almost like she was in an enchanted sleep… and here she was, in a Sleeping Beauty character, awake and walking around, as though the curse had never happened.
They’d been swapped.

Oooh

Last but not least, I’m prepping my May newsletter to go out in the next few days. If you’d like to sign up, click here. You’ll get a free short story in the mail. 😉

That’s it from me for now. I’ll talk to you soon.

Sunday Summary – May 03

How can it be May already? After March dragged on forever, April seemed to be gone in the blink o an eye!

In spite of everything, April was a pretty good month in Chez Wrayburn. Working from home kicked in, which took away a lot of the stress we’had been feeling about having to still show up for work each day, either paying exorbitant parking fees or catching public transport.

It is getting incredibly cold here, which is making it hard to really stick to my usual 6am writing habits. But I’m at least getting myself in front of a keyboard by 6:30 on most weekday mornings, and usually before 7am. So it still counts! I think there will be more writing in bed as the season goes on.

I have been thinking about how to keep this blog active, and have come to the conclusion I’m not very good at blog hops… I’m good at blogging, but not hopping, and I have never felt comfortable with posting in such things and getting lovely responses to my own post then not returning the favour.

So I’m not going to to do any more of that.

I am going to still post excerpts from my drafts every now and then, and I thought it might be fun to do other things like “Typo of the week”, and I might cross-post my writing-related Instagram posts here, too.

I’m currently in the middle of a return to the Operation: Sugarplum sequel. I’m hoping I might have this finished in a couple more weeks. Before yesterday’s writing session, I was only about 2200 words in. I’m now closing in on 6000. Sugarplum was roughly 12000 words, and I suspect this one might be a bit longer.

In the past week, I’ve also revisited Facing the Music, and written myself a very basic summary of each chapter in the first draft. Even though the ending was very scattered, I’ve decided to start looking at it in terms of revisions and rewrites, and make a start on Draft 2. If it doesn’t happen before then, I might make it a July Camp NaNoWriMo project.

Before I sign off, since I mentioned it, here is the typo of the week:

Max lipped his lips before he opened his mouth.

I don’t know exactly what lip-lipping is, but I thought it sounded vaguely uncomfortable.

And with that, I take my leave. Until next time.

2020 Writing Goals – April Check-in


At
the start of this year, some writer friends and I chose a word as the theme for the coming 12 months. Mine was LEARN.

Now the start of the year feels like a million years ago, but actually, I’ve been ticking things off on this list more so than I thought. That’s why check-in posts are good. I’m only listing the goals I’ve made progress on here, but you can read my full list of goals here.

Writing

  • Submit stories to four anthologies or short story competitions – 2/4

I submitted to Cantina Publishing‘s upcoming anthology Silk & Steel: An Adventure Anthology of Queer Ladies. This short story took over a month to get down on paper in a way I way happy with. If you were following my Weekend Writing Warriors posts in January and February, you would have read a few excerpts featuring my dragon hunters, Helena and Tori. The rebels Jules and Ada got edited out in the third draft, but I’ve filed the whole rebel story line away for a bigger WIP one day.

I didn’t get accepted for this one, but they received over 500 submissions, so I suspect I am probably in good company!

I also submitted my short story The Old Boy to The Big Issue Fiction Edition 2020. This went through 5 drafts when I submitted it for the Australian Fairy Tale Society’s anthology, South of the Sun, last year but I still found additions and edits to make before this new submission. A writer’s work is never done.

Learning

  • Listen to two episodes of a writing or publishing podcast each week.

This started out well but has fallen off in the last few months. Maybe I should put a few on while I’m working from home, get back into that way.

  • Complete Ingram Spark’s self-publishing short courses 1/3

So far I’ve completed the How to Self-Publish course. It’s very 101 and there wasn’t a lot in there that I didn’t already know, having been researching on and off for a while now as well as hanging out with a lot of indie authors. But it’s good to have that foundation, I suppose.

  • Complete at least one other short course on self-publishing/book design (e.g. through LinkedIn Learning)

I was booked in to do Ellie Marney’s self-publishing boot camp in Melbourne on the first weekend of April, but of course, that has been postponed. I’m not sure whether the intention is for it to be run online or in person but it has been moved to October, so I guess we’ll have to see what the situation is then.

This week I am doing Bryan Cohen’s five-day course on Amazon advertising. We’ve done “session 0”, i.e. prep work, so far and I feel like I’ve already learned a lot! I think this one’s going to be very useful.

Marketing

(myself and my books)

  • Start mailing list
  • Set up author website

Well, here you are on emilywrayburn.com. One thing about everything being shut down is that I have a budget for things like domain registration, because I’m not spending it on theatre tickets. And the first issue of my newsletter went out on March 19, with the second one coming soon. So I guess I can tick off these two goals!

Publishing

  • Give A More Complicated Fairytale some love. 

I’m actually thinking of doing a big relaunch for this book. It deserves it.

For a couple of reasons, I’ve decided I’d like a new cover and I’ve found a designer I’m going to approach.

I know that the description, keywords and categories on Amazon need a good revamp.

I also want to upload the paperback through Ingram Spark so that I can distribute it more widely, and get it printed in Australia. That requires buying ISBNs and things like that, so it’ll take some time.

So this is a project worthy of its own check-in posts, and I’m excited to take it forward.

So that’s where I am right now. Doesn’t look too bad when I see it all listed together here. I’ll check in again when I’ve got more to add.

#WeWriWa // #8sunday 08 – April 05, 2020

Weekend Writing Warriors

Welcome to Weekend Writing Warriors, where writers share 8-10 sentences from their WIP for from a current writing project, published or unpublished, then visit other participants and offer opinions, critiques, support.

Uh… hi. Yes. It’s been a while. This year, right? Yikes…

But on a happier note, look, I have a real website! This is my first post for emilywrayburn.com rather than lettingthevoicesout.wordpress.com. Pretty psyched to finally get that set up. 🙂

Anyway. After a long hiatus, I have found myself writing the past couple of days. I pulled out my 2019 NaNoWriMo project, which I abandoned halfway through November in a fit of disgust… Funny what a few months can do because when I read over it on Friday night, I liked what I saw. Writing, huh?

This project is as yet untitled, but it is the sequel to my novelette, Operation: Sugarplum (find out more under the “My Books” tab above). I’ve rewritten the beginning, and here we have Clara and her boss as Clara prepared to leave for the day to go help Max out at Drosselmeier Industries.

“And you’re sure you’re not leaving me for a job with your video gamer boyfriend?”

Clara rolled her eyes at her boss. “Okay, first of all, he’s not my boyfriend. Second of all, I don’t have a clue about creating video games, I only play them. And as I have already told you this is a one-off. They needed an extra hand to supervise kids at the launch party tonight.”

Lacey still looked dubious. “You say that, but you’ve been spending an awful lot of time with him.”

She has her reasons, Lacey! Sure, “he’s cute and makes me laugh” might be some of them, but there are others, too! 😉

I’ll see you here again soon! Don’t forget to visit the other Weekend Writing Warriors at the link above.

Where’d you go, Emily?

So who else is ready for 2020 to be cancelled?

From starting the year covered in bushfire smoke, to massive hailstorms, to job insecurity only exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, is it any wonder that I’ve barely put pen to paper, or that my last post here was February 16?

Any wonder that I was spending more time playing pointless time-wasting games on my phone rather than actually writing?

But! I am in a fortunate position, compared to many others. I still have a job and will probably start working from home 3-4 days a week this week (there are parts of my job I simply can’t do remotely, but at least this way I’ll be able to afford the parking fees and won’t have to take public transport).

I have a wonderful group of friends with whom I’m voice chatting/Zooming a lot, and we’ve been checking in on each other daily. That includes my writing group, and during a voice chat session today, I made myself a spreadsheet with my outstanding WIPs and where I’m at on all of them.

I’ve got my work cut out for me over the next few months, but hopefully with extra time at home, I’ll get through it!

And hopefully soon, that will translate into a bit more of a presence on this here blog, too. Take care, everyone, and I’ll see you soonish.

#WeWriWa // #8sunday 08 – February 16, 2020

Welcome to Weekend Writing Warriors, where writers share 8-10 sentences from their WIP for from a current writing project, published or unpublished, then visit other participants and offer opinions, critiques, support.

Apologies for my lack of engagement with you all over the last couple of weeks, first not returning any comments, then not being here at all last week. Things have been a bit hectic. I didn’t even realise I hadn’t signed up for last week until late Sunday.

I’ve received feedback from my five beta readers on my submission for Cantina Publishing’s Silk & Steel: An Adventure Anthology of Queer Ladies. Everyone really liked it! But had really useful comments on how to make it even better! In the nine months I’ve been writing short fiction, I’ve found it really interesting how everyone picks up on slightly different things.

I haven’t actually started implementing any of their changes yet, so this excerpt it still from the first draft, and subject to change. In this scene, Tori and Helena have discovered the dragon they were hunting is up and about and has just disappeared through another tunnel in the cave system. They were hoping to find it asleep at the top of its hoard.

“Dammit,” Helena whispered. She looked down at her phone, matching up the passageway with the one on the map.

“Can we follow?”

Helena studied the map a little longer before nodding. “I think so,” she said. “Let’s go straight across and through that passage. Don’t hit anything. Don’t make any noise.”

Dragon hunting is a tricky business.

I’ll see you back here next week!

#WeWriWa // #8sunday 07 – February 02, 2020

Welcome to Weekend Writing Warriors, where writers share 8-10 sentences from their WIP for from a current writing project, published or unpublished, then visit other participants and offer opinions, critiques, support.

This week, I’ve continued working on a submission for Cantina Publishing’s Silk & Steel: An Adventure Anthology of Queer Ladies. I finished the second draft, thought it was awful, and proceeded to change tack again. And I just wish this was the tack I’d hit on the first time around, because everything is flowing so much better now, but it’s now only three weeks until submissions close, so I’m not going to have a lot of time to get feedback and polish it.

In this scene, the mission to put down the dragon starts going terribly wrong. IT’s mentioned earlier in the story that the guns they use shoot bolts of electricity rather than bullets as dragon scales are impervious to the latter but act as a conductor for the former.

With a screech, it latched onto Helena’s shoulders, pulling her into the air. Tori was still holding Helena’s hand and was momentarily also lifted off the ground before her hand slipped. The dragon rose high into the air, taking a screaming Helena with it.

“HELENA!” Tori ran after the dragon, fumbling to get her gun out of its holster. She flicked the safety switch off and heard the gun begin to hum with electricity. She aimed as she ran, but she knew it was too dangerous to take a shot. If she missed and hit Helena, Helena would be incinerated. And even if she struck true, what then? The dragon would fall out of the sky and Helena would be crushed.

And with that, I will see you all next week!

#WeWriWa // #8sunday 06 – January 19, 2020

Welcome to Weekend Writing Warriors, where writers share 8-10 sentences from their WIP for from a current writing project, published or unpublished, then visit other participants and offer opinions, critiques, support. I just realised that my last 4 WWW posts have all had a “03” at the start because I forgot I was numbering them. Back on track now. 😂

This week, I’ve continued working on a submission for Cantina Publishing’s Silk & Steel: An Adventure Anthology of Queer Ladies. I’ve completely changed tack on this story this week. Where the dragon-egg-stealing was a sport before, I’ve now changed it to a government initiative and this is working better for me. Basically the government take the eggs and destroy them because they’re trying to destroy the dragon breed.

The characters are still much the same, though Tori and Helena’s relationship is on the low-down since there is a department policy of no dating amongst employees. And the rivalry between them and Ada and Jules is much more in Tori’s head than it was in the sport version, as you can see below. Helena’s just told her to stop acting like it’s a competition and Tori’s got defensive.

The thing was, it was a competition to her. Even if there was no official count kept by the department, she would always compare the number of dragon eggs she and Helena collected to the number Jules and his sister Ada had in any given week, month, or year. It wouldn’t matter to her so much if the Havishams weren’t so bloody smug about it all the time. It was the department’s worst-kept seceret that they had been given their positions in the department because their father was a high-ranking politician, but no one could complain because they were actually good at their jobs regardless of how they came by them.

Or at least, they had been, and the habit of secretly competing with them was hard for Tori to break. Now, they were barely seen around the compound and when they were, they kept their heads down. Tori might not have liked the siblings themselves, but she had to admit she’d enjoyed hers and Jules’ verbal sparring. She almost missed it now.

Ooh, mysterious behaviour, I wonder what that’s’ all about… If I ever actually finish this story, perhaps you’ll find out!

See you all next week!

#WeWriWa // #8sunday 03 – January 12, 2020

Welcome to Weekend Writing Warriors, where writers share 8-10 sentences from their WIP for from a current writing project, published or unpublished, then visit other participants and offer opinions, critiques, support.

This week, I’ve continued working on a submission for Cantina Publishing’s Silk & Steel: An Adventure Anthology of Queer Ladies. It’s been giving me some trouble, mostly because it requires actual… action scenes. Ew.

In this story, my two ladies participate in a sport wherein contestants in teams of two have to distract a dragon long enough for one of them to steal its egg. In this scene, Ada and Jules Havisham, twins and Helena and Tori’s main competitors, have shown up to be their usual irritating selves.

“Sounds like everybody’s assuming you two have it in the bag this year,” Jules said, tone sceptical. 

“It’s a shame to be disappointed before the competition even starts,” Tori shot back. “But I’m sure you’ll give it a good go.” 

Jules smirked. 

“We’ll see,” he said. He turned to his sister. “Come on. Nothing to see here.” They drifted back out of the green room, leaving Tori and Helena alone again for the moment. 

I was for a while referring to the Havishams as the Malfoys in my head, and Tori and Helena as the Grangers (definitely Grangers, not Potters 🙃). This story has been giving me some trouble this week. I am just not good at writing action scenes, so the actual bit where they fight the dragon and steal the egg… looks amazing in my head. Hate it on paper. Gah. I know I’ve just got to push through it and write something… but sometimes that’s easier said than done.

I was hoping to have the first draft of this done by Jan 15, but we’ll see whether that happens or not. Submissions close February 22, so I want to give myself time to polish it up and have some other people read through it. But at the end of the day, I can only do what I can do.

See you all next week!