How I set huge goals without getting crushed by them.

Friday’s post got two comments by J.H. Moncrieff and Kelly Hashway (both ladies have awesome blogs, by the way), which basically came down to “How do you keep getting so much done?” and “How do you handle your discouragement if you achieve your goals?” 

Since it isn’t the first time people asked me, I thought I’d go into my madness/method once more. Actually, I’m going to share my big secret: 
I set huge goals and then make a game of chasing them. 
If I think about it in an attempt to explain myself, it’s a lot like a perpetual game of soccer/football/rugby/whatever else you can think of involving points. Or maybe I’m playing a game of Quidditch, because I remember that some of those go on for a while. The only thing here is that I’m both sides. Misha the writer/doer-of-things vs Misha the procrastinator. 
The more things in a day, the more times I score. And yes. I keep track. 
If you look closely, you’ll see I have two Excel spreadsheets open. I open them up the first thing every morning. 
The first is this one: 
This is where I keep track of my writing/editing goals by month. This was September, but at the end of each year, I create a spreadsheet for the next year. (2016’s is done too. I did it this month to take a writing break.) Basically, it started as a way for me to keep track of my rough draft’s word counts and daily progress during NaNo, since counting by hand is a bit of a pain in the butt, so it’s easier to only count toward the total and then subtract to find what I’ve written in a day. 
The big block on the left is for rough drafts and rewrites and the block on the right is for my edits. (I count edits by hour instead of words.) 
I have another block each month for critiques, but including it just makes the whole thing too small to see. Anyway, on all of the blocks, I color-code my progress so that I can see at a glance what I’ve been doing. I can also input monthly writing and editing goals (say 10k words and 15 hours respectively), and the spreadsheet calculates my totals, cumulative totals as well as daily goals and cumulative totals. In other words, this thing helps me keep track exactly the same way as NaNoWriMo’s stats do. 
The other spreadsheet I have open looks like this: 
The words are pretty squidgy so it might be hard to tell, but you’re looking at the month of September. Each color-line in the calendar other than turquoise represent particular monthly goals I’ve set. You know the ones. I set them on this blog on the last Friday of every month. The key to those goals are in the multi-colored blocks at the bottom. I try to keep themes. (Such as the Purple involves stuff I still have to do for The Vanished Knight. The dark green was for all my writing this month. Yellow was for my reading (and to count the average hours spent reading) and orange are my life goals.) Every theme/color has a primary, secondary and tertiary goal, as well as a space for me to mark them as in progress or complete. 
In other words, this little bad-boy is my score card. The things written in on the calendar aren’t a to-do list. They’re everything I’ve done. Every day. Saturdays and Sundays tend to be emptier because I let myself rest, and also because they’re spent on less quantifiable things like spending time with my family or binge-watching series to recover from my hard work. 
This month, everything except for eight tasks (out of 24) had me making at least some progress (two of which were postponed due to circumstances beyond my control.) Of the remaining 16 tasks I set myself this month, I completed 4 plus a bonus task for that rough draft I hadn’t set a goal for, so 5. Of the 12 remaining, I made significant progress on one. So all in all, I might not have finished the majority of my goals, but so what? Everything I did only sets me up to finish them next month or the next or whatever. But in the meantime, I know that very few of my weekdays (six) went without me furthering my writing goals in some way, and I compensated for those by working in on Saturdays. 
Also, to help keep things balanced, a quick glance at my word-count reveals that though I didn’t achieve everything I set out to do, I still finished a whole round of edits, a full rough draft and about a third of my planned rewrite in one month.
In short, I won this round by a wide margin. Starting tomorrow, I get to see if (and how far) I can win again. 
And yes, this came is huge fun. There’s nothing as awesome as marking things as complete when you have things to do and goals to achieve. 

What about the bad months? Oh I have those too. Usually, what I do is I focus on what I have achieved. (I almost always get something done.) Also, it helps me to keep a long term view in mind. 
How long-term? Well. The Five Year Project runs from 2014 to 2018, but the timeline I have (the one I always post on my update days) have projects pipelined. And to give you an idea, this is what the Project looks like visually at this moment. (Each row is a project, each column is a month and each block is a year.) 
Each orange block means something’s been (or will hopefully be) published. If I can just get half of next year done, I’ll be a happy camper, and currently, I’m pretty much set to get there. All those tasks that didn’t quite get done in any single month still add up to me finishing things, so there’s no reason to worry about any supposed failure. There are no failures here. Only failure to do things, and I know I will get to them at some point.

What about you? Do you set goals? How do you keep track of them? 
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Hello! And Update Day.

Phew! That was a close one. I almost missed my own bloghop, but then the help I mentioned in my previous post kicked in to some extent. So here I am.
Before I get started, I just wanted to say a special and huge thanks to everyone who’ve left messages of support, and who’ve boosted me and my family with thoughts and prayers. It means a lot to me, and for those who asked for a return favor of prayers and thoughts: You’ve got it, awesome person.
And now, back to the matter at hand. For those of you who are wondering, we’re a group of people who’ve set ourselves huge/crazy/very important goals. Then we get together on every last Friday of every month to update on progress. Anyone with a huge/crazy/very important goal is welcome to join. Just click here for more information.
Right, so this is what I did to date (and I think I should be able to get some more done before the actual month end):
My goals for September:
Writing:
1) Edit BvB1.
Did one round, but the lack of Internet messed things up a bit, so I didn’t get a fast enough turnaround to get to a second pass. (I have an editor for this one.)

2) Rewrite Wo6C3
I had a huge burst of productivity on the 9th. It started with a new project that grabbed on and wouldn’t let go. After I spent a week writing that draft (It’s a new record. I finished an entire rough draft in six days.), I used that momentum to get stuck in with the rewrite, and have added almost 15k words. At the rate I’m going, I should be able to add about 18k more before the end of the month.

3) Rough Draft BvB2.
Didn’t start this yet, but I’m hoping to get stuck in once I’ve finished the second round of edits to BvB1. Hopefully, the timing will fall so that I’ll be done with the Wo6C3 rewrite by then too. Yes, I do work on multiple projects at a time, but for some reason, the Wo6C series and the BvB series can’t live in the same head space at the same time. So I’ll finish the one, then the other.
4) Rough edits to ES1 and get critique partners for it.
My near constant lack of internet screwed this one up. I need to go looking for CPs for this, since I think maybe one of my CPs will want to read it. It’s a historical romance set in the old west, so it’s not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea.
5) Prep VD rewrite.
That other draft I mentioned, DM1 messed this one up big time. DM1 is still trying to take over my priorities, but I’m holding off until the end of next month. It does, however, mean that I’ve moved VD closer to the end of this year or maybe even early next year.
6) Rough Draft StW
Poor StW. It’s been hanging around, patiently waiting since January. Still haven’t gotten to it. The truth is, I’ve always intended it to be a bit of fluff for me to write to relax, but my main projects aren’t giving me the time to do it. (And then when I have time, another exciting project like DM1 comes along and steals its thunder.)
7) CdW concept.
I did a little of this, but not as much as I’d wanted. Again, the lack of internet caught me here, because the concept requires research.
8) Critique works sent to me by critique partners.
I’d need to find those CPs first.
Writing-wise, my month looked like this:
Reading:
1) TRY reading six books.
I’m on my third at the moment.
2) Give up on the idea that I’ll catch up on my yearly reading goal.
Yep. Done.
3) See how far I can get with Les Trois Mousquetaires.
Didn’t get anywhere with this. The older french in this one doesn’t feature in the dictionaries I have, so before, I’ve used the internet to help me translate the tricky bits. Sigh.
4) Read for an average of 15 minutes per day.
Current average is 34 minutes per day, but I’ll be reading this weekend, which will push the number up some more.
Social Media:
1) Maintain about the same level of activity as August.
Nope, the only real activity was me letting people know I wouldn’t be online, along with a few odd moments on twitter and Facebook when afforded the opportunity.
Life:
1) Don’t freak out while waiting to hear back from the film company I submitted the concept to.
Done. Was way too busy to freak out. I should be hearing back next week.
2) Crochet.
I did a few squares, but I’ve spent more time writing than anything else.
3) Get the first layer of paint on my canvas.
I’ve had to postpone my painting for a few. We might be moving house before the end of the year. My idea of hell is trying to move a canvas half the size of a decently sized dining table when it’s covered in wet oil paint.
Aw nuts. This is the moment I realize what moving house will do to my publishing schedule for the rest of the year.
Okay. I’ll find a way not to get too scrambled with the move. Hey. Last year, I moved in the middle of NaNoWriMo and still won. I can do this.
My goals for October:
Writing:
1) Edit BvB1
2) See if I can finish the Wo6C3 rewrite.
3) Get back to the BvB2 rough draft.
4) Find critique partners for ES1.
5) Prep the DM1 rewrite for NaNoWriMo.
6) Start StW. (Or…end up postponing it yet again.)
7) Work on the CdW concept.
Writing-wise, I’m hoping October looks like this:
Reading:
1) Read four books.
2) If possible read some more of Les Trois Mousquetaires.
3) Since I’m giving myself a break on the number of books I’m reading, I’m upping my average time a day spent reading to 20 minutes.
Social Media:
As disheartening as this is, start again to build up some sort of a presence.
Life:
1) Be prepared to chop and change my plans in the (unlikely) event of the film concept I’ve sent in being chosen.
2) Take deep breaths and try not to murder anyone. (Long story.)
3) Crochet.
How did you do in September? Anything important that I missed?

If I’m not back…

If I’m not back by Friday at the latest, I am okay, but my internet service has been cut.

No, when I said my business has been going well this year, it has. I didn’t lie. However, I never quite explained what happened last year, which means that almost no one one the bloggosphere even has a concept of the magnitude disaster that 2014 turned out to be for me and my family.

But I’m tired. So tired, I no longer feel like putting on a smile and saying “we’re bouncing back.”

So here’s the truth.

You know how if a tennis ball falls, it keeps bouncing, but every successive bounce is a bit lower than the previous one?

Starting almost exactly two years ago today, we’ve been screwed out of money. At end 2013, it didn’t bother me, because I believed we’d bounce back in 2014. Heck, in 2014, we were even smart to put all we have into two more businesses in order to decrease the risk. Business 101, no?

It didn’t protect us.

Because we were screwed out of our farm (and all the money we invested on it), we were screwed out of both our other businesses by various people. And today, while sitting here wondering how the hell we could have an excellent year and STILL not bounce back, I did a full estimation of what we’ve lost since September 2013, and it’s not a pretty number.

And every time we tried to make up the loss, someone else would screw us over again and help us a bit deeper into the hole. Maybe this sounds like I’m blaming everyone else but myself. But you’re wrong. I do blame myself for a lot of things, but the business we did was never failed because of what we did, but because of things people we trusted did.

Every time we learned a lesson. Oh yes, we’ve learned plenty. But every new person had a new trick, and every time, we had less of a capability to bounce back.

This year, we turned things around. We started again and started catching up. Heck, we even tied down some contracts (both in supply and demand) that meant that starting this coming season (we export fruit and veg), we’ll be well on the way back to even footing. So much so, that we even have someone who’s willing to join our business in order to get there faster.

But this person will only see us next Wednesday, and at sometime after that (when papers are signed and whatnot), we’ll be able to move forward with the joint business.

In the meantime, all our expenses are due this week. Starting today, with a surprise cut-off notice from our ISP who have decided that we must pay twice this month or else. And our bounce-back capability is officially out.

Our one last shot is borrowing money, but with the economy they way it is, few people have money lying around to lend out. And we can’t ask a bank or other institution, because that will simply take too long.

So yeah. Hopefully, I’ll have good news before the cut-off in five hours. Otherwise, I guess I’ll see you all in a few weeks.

I’m at Untethered Realms Today

Hi all!

Today, I’m at Untethered Realms, writing about my favorite thing as a published author.

Before you go, I want to give a quick shout-out to my fried Murees Dupe, whose new book is out today.

Claire is sassy, human, and an outcast of society―who only wants to know where she belongs.
Alex is arrogant, selfish, and an immortal warrior―who thinks he’s prepared for everything.
Claire knows the world of immortals is where she belongs. As her guide and guardian, Alex finds it hard to resist Claire’s subtle charm. Can the two overcome their differences and embrace their passion for each other, or will the possibility of true love be lost to both forever?
Find your copy here:

E-book: Kindle* Nook* Ibooks* Kobo
Paperback: Amazon
About the Author

Murees Dupé was born and still lives in South Africa. When she is not thinking up new stories, she is spending time with her family, playing with her three dogs and cat, watching TV, or overindulging on desserts. To learn more about Murees, visit her website www.mureesdupe.com.

Meradeth Houston on Creating an Interesting Antagonist

Hi all! Today I’m welcoming one of my blogging buddies Meradeth Houston to the blog as part of her blog tour. She’s awesome, so do go over and say hi. 

Creating an Interesting Antagonist

Thanks so much for hosting me today, Misha! It’s always a treat to be on a fellow author’s blog. I thought I’d talk a little about antagonists and creating a really fun one. Well, maybe ‘fun’ is the right word, but one that gets under a reader’s skin in all the best ways.

So, I’ll admit that I love a good bad guy/gal. Maybe that’s a little twisted, but it makes me a whole lot more invested in a book. Some of my favorites come from Harry Potter. Of course we have Lord Voldemort, who is obviously evil. I mean, we get that. And his back story allows us to understand how he got that way. But while we don’t like the wizard and want him gone, there are some other antagonists that really irk a lot of readers. Let’s be honest, I think anyone was upset with what happened to Dolores Umbridge. Why? I think it has a lot to do with the fact that we’ve all had people like her in our lives. I’ve read some great articles about how people project that mean teacher/boss/whoever that was out to get them on Umbridge. So, what this boils down to is a way to connect personally with the antagonist—that really helps make them leap off the page.

For another Harry Potter character, let’s take Snape. The guy’s got some issues. He’s done some dumb stuff. And to be honest it wasn’t until the last book that I came to terms with the guy. The rest of the time I kind of thought he needed some psychological help (though I had some serious discussions with people who saw the good in Snape from the beginning). Anyhow, what changed my opinion? What made Snape that layered character that would be so incredible? His story. Learning about what got him to the troubled spot he was in, in such heart-rending detail, made me feel sorry for him and understand what drove him. And it wasn’t just hate and bitterness like Voldemort—nope, it was love and having to live through loss. Such a good story. But this boils down to seeing the inner conflict of the antagonist and understanding why they’re that way, to the point that on some level you might want them to succeed. I mean, sure, rooting for the hero might be obvious, but the antagonist has a point, too.

So, the reason I bring this up is because Joan, the antagonist of Travelers, was kind of tricky to write, because all the way through the story I found myself almost wanting her to get her way. She didn’t like the rules she had to live by because it meant her twin died, so she did something about it. And she did an amazing job. But there were consequences that made what she did pretty horrible for Sienna, the story’s hero, which is what plays out in the book. Still, Joan’s attitude had a completely logical foundation, one based on ideas I could understand and sympathize with, so there were a few times when I thought about letting her “win” while writing. The role that Joan plays in the book is one I really enjoyed exploring…probably because I love a good bad guy.

Who’s your favorite antagonist from a book or movie?

About TRAVELERS:

Sienna Crenshaw knows the rules: 1) no time traveling beyond your natural lifetime, 2) no screwing with death, and 3) no changing the past. Ever. Sienna doesn’t love being stuck in the present, but she’s not the type to to break the rules. That is, she wasn’t the type until her best friend broke every one of those rules to keep Henry, her twin brother and Sienna’s ex-boyfriend, alive.
Suddenly, Sienna is caught in an unfamiliar reality. The upside? Henry is still alive. The downside? Sienna’s old life, including the people in it, has been erased. Now, Sienna and Henry must untangle the giant knot in time, or her parents and all the rest of the Travelers, will be lost forever. One problem: the only way to be successful is for Henry to die.
Bio:

Meradeth’s never been a big fan of talking about herself, but if you really want to know, here are some random tidbits about her:
>She’s a Northern California girl who now braves the cold winters in Montana.
>When she’s not writing, she’s sequencing dead people’s DNA.
>She’s also an anthropology professor and loves getting people interested in studying humans.
>If she could have a super-power, it would totally be flying. Which is a little strange, because she’s terrified of heights.
Find Meradeth Houston online at: www.MeradethHouston.com

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