Checking in.

Eek! I can’t believe how fast time has been running away from me. December just seems to be one of those months. Too much to do.

Today, my mom, gran and I spent most of this morning baking cookies for Christmas. It was a bit dodgy at one stage, because for some reason, all of our batters came out too sticky, so I we had to improvise. Thankfully, though, no flops.

Other than that, it just feels like there’s a black hole around here somewhere, happily sucking up my time. I’ve only manage to write three times this month, which, given how much I still have to do, is a bit horrifying. Worse still, I’m not sure what I spent that time on. Some of it I do remember. Mostly, though, it feels like I’ve somehow managed to waste two thirds of the month, even if I haven’t.

It’s just that sinking feeling I get when everything I’m doing now is going toward a long-term goal.

One short term thing I’ve done that you actually can see: I updated the banners to all of my social network sites except for YouTube to show off my books a bit more. I think it came out beautifully, but you can see what all of my sites look like by clicking in the links on the header. (Those link buttons are also new.)

It was something I’ve been wanting to do for a while now, but just kept putting off. Now I’m glad that it’s done.

I’ve also imported all of my blog posts to WordPress and replicated all of my pages, so there is no longer a difference between the content from one blog to the other. (Which was the point, given that I’m just cross-posting between the two so my WordPress friends have an easier experience with my blog.)

I’ve got a whole lot of stuff that needs doing, and even some posts that I’ve got lined up in my mind, but my map for The War of Six Crowns is done, which means there’s nothing hampering my updating the first two books, save for the fact that I still haven’t finished all the other stuff I wanted to do to those books.

Sigh.

So. As much as I’ve wanted to finish Book 3 before year-end, it just makes sense to focus on updating my published books first. It’s just… really distracting to have these updates looming in the back of my mind. And the sooner I have them done, the sooner I can start pushing with marketing tactics. (No point doing them when I might change up the book at any moment.)

That’s basically where I am at the moment.

I’m probably going to be a bit absent until next week, since I really want to push to get stuff done. We’ll see how that works out, though.

How are you doing? What are you rushing to finish off before New Year’s Eve?

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Insecure Writer’s Support Group

Hey everyone. It’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means it’s time for another Insecure Writer’s Support Group post. For those of you who don’t know, the IWSG is the brainchild of Alex J. Cavanaugh. Once a month, we share our insecurities, then visit each other and encourage each other. You’re more than welcome to sign up. For more information and the entry list, please click here.

This month’s question actually ties in quite nicely with my insecurities… 

In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?

I’d actually like to be writing (and doing writing-related activities) full-time by the end of next year. (Actually, I’m basically working as if I’m full-time already, but it’d be nice to actually make a living from it.)

Five years from now, I’d like to be making a very comfortable living from my writing.

As for my plan to get there:

I’m using my writing skills to freelance as an editor/beta reader/article writer on Upwork and Fiverr. I’m also working on building a Patreon following, and obviously I’m selling books. Right now, I’m putting all of the money I’m generating back into making more money (E.G. through marketing, or through paying for products that aid me in writing, editing etc.)

Eventually, I’ll hopefully be in a place where my writing earns enough for me to make a living. And actually, it’s not all that impossible. The lucky thing is that I live in South Africa, which means I’m earning in Dollars and living in Rands. So, if I managed to make $500 a month after expenses, I’d actually have the same income as a good starting office job salary. (And 2.5 times my country’s minimum wage.)

My insecurity right now, though, is my life at the moment. I’m not going to go into exactly what’s going on right now, but every time it feels like we’ve finally clawed our way out of the shit we’d been dragged into, something comes by to shove us back in.

So at the moment, I’m trying not to feel like I’m never going to get anywhere again, but the thing is, the thought is there. It exists. And the only way for me to make it go away is by pushing through and working anyway to build up the life I want.

It’d just be nice if I didn’t need to worry as much.

How are you doing? Do you set five year goals? 

Up-boo! Day

Today is the last Friday of October, which means it’s time for another Update Day. In case you’re wondering what it is: Beth Fred and I host a blog hop, where we set crazy or crazy important goals. The idea is for everyone to chase down their goals, and on the last Friday of each month, we share updates on our progress.

You’re welcome to join at any time, so if you’d like to sign up, or to see who else is taking part, please click here.

I have to admit, it’s currently 9:30 p.m, so I’m cutting it close with my own blog hop. In fact, I almost considered cutting it even closer, because I have a deadline looming (more on that in a few), but I needed a break. So I thought: what better way is there to relax than to do a post mortem on the past month?

Huh?

Huh?!

Oh okay fine. I’ll just get to it.

In cased you missed last month’s post, I’ve hit reset on my 5-year goal and I decided to take this being-a-writer thing full-time. 
To make that happen, I’m setting monthly writing goals, along with writing business goals. The former deals with my activities in producing more stories. The latter deals mostly with marketing, and my ability to earn revenues from writing, and writing related activities. Just to clarify, if the money I earn relates in any way to me using my writing skills or knowledge, I’m counting it as revenues for my writing business. 
So, if I were to monetize this blog (which I won’t do) and this blog generated an income, it’d show up in my analyses. But if I win the lottery, or suddenly become a millionaire doing something else… Nope. 
Basically, this whole exercise is to see exactly how hard or how easy it is to start almost from scratch and become a full-time writer. So I started last September with a budget of $10, and started working. 
Every month, then, I set a goal for Writing and a goal for Generated Revenue. 

So how did I do in October? 

Before I show the graphs, I should point out one thing: If I had to give October one theme, I would call it The Agony and the Ecstasy. 

Especially the week I just had. Life and other work (yeah, remember how I said I’m still doing other work too because it gives me so much time? BAHAHAHAHAHA *sob*) just went into full-blown hell mode. 
In fact, when I wrote my friend Connie about it, I couldn’t even put a word to it. A day later, and it’s finally occurred to me: 
Shell-shock
I’m not even kidding. This was a week I will not want to experience ever again. I’ll get around to talking about it, as soon as I’ve really recovered. 
It’s not all bad, though. This same hell-week also turned out to have something really good in it too. (And that doesn’t count the fact that I’ve finally tasted (and fell in love with (even more passionately than I adore parentheses)) macaroons.) In fact, this exact same hell-week was nothing short of miraculous. (Again, more on this when I’ve recovered.) 
In short, the overall results of October were mixed. 

Writing

One of my major writing goals I have at the moment is to finish Book 3 of The War of Six Crowns before the end of this year. 
Basically, doing so means I have to write about 50,000 words every month, including October. 
Did I manage it? 
No. 
In fact, I’ve managed a slight bit under half of what I wanted to do. In my defense, pretty much every one of those plateaus coincided with some crappiness from the rest of my life spilling into my writing time. 
And sadly, most of the words added here were courtesy of my Insecure Writers’ Support Group short story, but I did submit that, so that was one writing goal achieved.
As for my third writing goal (reformatting my books for updates to the content and covers), I’ve so far managed to start on The Vanished Knight. It’s basically done, but I want to do yet another proofread. Not because I think I’ll find anything, but I’ve found that Word does funny things to documents, changing formatting without permission, making words and phrases vanish… That sort of thing. Call me paranoid, but I’d rather be sure everything is where it should be. 
If you’re wondering, if the hell-week is over, why I haven’t started writing… I have a very good reason. More on this on a bit.
Goals for November: 
1) NANOWRIMO! Yes, I’m a glutton for punishment, but I’ll be rebelling and trying to add 50k words to Book 3. In case you want to buddy up with me, my username on the NaNoWriMo website is iceangel. 
2) Published books. I have a lot to do here: 
2.1) Take my paperbacks out of Amazon’s expanded distribution, so I can prepare to publish them directly through Ingram Spark. 
2.2) Finish formatting and proofreading all three of my books so I can do the updates I want to do. 
2.3) Plan something around the reveal of the updated covers. 
3) Post Ryan on Patreon. Ryan is a short-story from the same world as Endless. I want to share it with my patrons, and had planned to start this month already, but I just couldn’t get to it. 

Generated Revenue

Every month, I’m setting a monthly revenue target. Then, I’m counting all of the month’s revenue, which means I count revenue the moment it’s generated (which I usually call future income or income generated in the month) and money that were actually generated in previous months. 
So, if I sell a book on Amazon and I get $5 in royalties, it will only really be in my account later. So, in order to show people where my income is coming from, I’ll show the money in the month I first earned it, and then again once it’s in my account. (It’s all just to make the graphs make sense. I actually studied accounting and am aware that this is not how normal people count money. But I’m not normal.) 
Also, I have a few rules I’ve set for myself: 
The first one is: I set the target, and the target doesn’t move until after I’ve reached it once. 
The second one is: The target for current and future generated income is equal to the monthly target minus accrued income. (So if I set a goal of $10 and that $5 royalty is paid into my account, I have $5 left to generate for this month, or for future months.) 
The third one is: If I hit the target, I have to raise the bar. 
And… well… I’m going to have to raise the bar quite a bit. 
See, in September, I set a $100 target for the month, and then came in under. But this month… this month I annihilated it.
That’s right. I generated more than double my target revenue. In fact, I hit the $100 goal on the 14th. Which was part of the reason why I haven’t been able to write today. Because I’m getting this income from Upwork, and I still have a deadline. 
On the positive side, I made enough to get Upwork to pay money into my Payoneer account, which also means I’ll be able to withdraw my money. Which means I can pay for Photoshop etc. 
Goals for November
1) Boost book sales. Don’t get me wrong. I really like when my target graphs look like this, but honestly, I need to see more book sales. Amazon was completely dead this month (except when they paid out a few royalties.) And really, my overall goal is to get my written works to pay my way, so I really need to make that bar graph a bit more colorful. Mainly, though, I know I didn’t enough to get sales this month. I did more in September, to obvious results. 
2) Hit my next revenue target. Deciding on the target is a bit tricky, because most of the money I made on Upwork this month will be accrued income in November. So, if I set a $200 goal, it will basically only be $100 to go after. Instead, I’m lifting the goal to $300. 
That’s it from me. How did your October go? Are you doing NaNoWriMo?

Sorry for being so quiet!

This week was a rough one.

Mostly, a lot of developments in my business-life (as supposed to writing-life or… well. life-life) meant that I had zero time for any writing or even social networking.

I’m not complaining. Any movement in the business is good, so I rather spend more time a day and get things dealt with than drag things out. Now we’re basically back to the waiting part, which means I should have more time to write.

I have sooooo much writing to do, though. It’s kinda starting to give me a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. It’s not a guilt thing. It’s a stress thing. If I’m in stressful situations, writing helps me blow of steam, but when I’m too tired to write… I don’t, and the stress keeps building.

You’d think that would mean the words just come rushing out as soon as I sit down, but you’d be wrong.

Cause the more stress builds, the harder it becomes for me to find my words. Which adds to my stress, which makes writing more difficult, which adds to my stress.

Yeah.

Not fun.

And I’d like to say I’ll write this weekend, but I’m days behind on my editing goals as well. So now I don’t know what I should do first.

I’ll just have to figure it out over the weekend.

How are you doing? 

And you thought being a full-time writer was glamorous.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve decided to jump into this being-a-full-time writer thing. 

Without a parachute. 
DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUUUUNNNNN! 
Yeah. It’s all very dramatic. Truth be told, though, it’s not really all that glamorous. I’ve explained my thinking in my IWSG post, but the TL;DR version goes something like this…
Lots going on with my “day-job” businesses, but no money has come in. 
Writing, while bringing in a tiny income, is in fact bringing me an income. 
Ergo, it makes sense for me to put in more time to create content and writing which can bring me more income. 

Am I being stupid about this? 

Gosh, no! At least I hope not. Basically my “day-job” business has reached a hurry-up-and-wait phase. As in, I’ve contacted people. They want to work with me. They ordered samples. They’ve received samples, and now they’re waiting for some meeting or the other to try said samples and decide whether or not they buy. 
In the meantime, I’m sitting here twiddling my thumbs looking for other ways to make money.
Since writing is my passion, I want to put more time into making it work as a viable business, just like I’m doing with my other businesses. 
The problem with this is… 

You might have guessed it. Money. Right now, money is my biggest issue. See, if I’m going to make it as a writer, I need to keep producing books. Which will bring me in some money. 
Okay. But I need to get the word out, which means marketing. Marketing like… sharing stuff on all my social networks all the time. (Which I’m doing now, but man it takes a chunk out of my time.) Marketing like creating more content that has value to my readers (like more books). And so on. 
Problem is that I have to pay for most of this in some way, whether it’s with money or time. Because more often than not, money payments aren’t an option, it’s time. Which means that right now, everything I do is a trade-off of some kind. 
I can spend more time on social networs, but that means I don’t write as much. 
Or I can buy a way to schedule things to all my social networks, but that costs money, of which I have a very limited budget and no clue as to the Return on Investment. 
Yes. Me taking this thing into full-time territory has me thinking about return on investment a lot. 
And thinking about that, brings me to the timing of those returns. In other words… No matter what I do, there tends to be at least a month delay between my spending my money and me getting it back, if I even get it back. 

To illustrate. 
Let’s say I want to publish a new book. 
If I pay outsource: 
Cheapest Nice-ish Cover for ebooks and paperback: $150 if I’m really lucky.
Formatting: Between $100 and $500
This means a minimum of $250 for one book. 
If I do it all myself, I can bring the cost down to $80 by paying for sofware I use to make my own covers etc., but the downfall is that this is $80 per month. Which means two things: 
1) To keep the cost at $80, I need to create a book every month. Which is something I had been working towards, but that got steamrolled by my life. So let’s say we’re actually closer to $200 per book, unless I use the same software for other income streams. (Which would be the plan.) 
2) In order to keep the software, and assuming that books are the only way with which to pay this money, it means I have to sell at least 40 books every single month just to break even. 
And even if I was there (and I’m not), that money will only come in at least one month (but as much as three months) after the end of the month in which I incurred the expense. 
To say the least, it’s a freaking headache. 
If I was to publish through a publishing house, it does save me the expense, but at the cost of not making any income off the time-commitment to write until at least nine months after I sold the book. Never mind the time it takes just to find a publisher who wants to sign the book. 
So now I have to find other ways to generate money with which to pay for these products, such as Patreon, Fiverr and monetizing YouTube videos. Which is great, but I still a) need the those same $80 products to help generate content, b) need to spend time in order to market my activities on those sites c) need to wait at least a month before I receive the money back. 
And to make the money back as quickly as possible, I have to use Payoneer in order to have a US Bank account, and if I do that, I have to wait until I have $200 to pay out just to get the money loose. 
So, in short… I’m feeling very much stuck. 
Advice? Thoughts?

Update Day

Today is the last Friday of August, so it’s time for another Update Day.

For those of you who are wondering what I’m talking about: Beth Fred and I host a monthly bloghop. A bunch of us have set huge/crazy/very important goals. On the last Friday of every month, we share updates on our progress (if any.)

You’re welcome to sign up! You can find more information here, as well as see how everyone else is doing.

So how have I done? 
Reading: Pathetic. I’ve only read a few pages in the beginning of the month. 
Life: Uhm…….. Let’s just say the crap continues. Which means that: 
Writing: 20k words, all of which except for 14 were written in the first two weeks. 
I wasn’t helped by the fact that I got a flu around the 14th. 
It also feels like… since setting aside my major goals for the rest of the year, I’ve sunk into doldrums, the likes of which I haven’t experienced since my time in university. 
I guess, by abandoning my plans, I’d abandoned my hopes for my publishing career, and as a result, I no longer have the incentive needed to be productive. 
Yes, I know what I’ve said before about not writing to publish. I stand by that.
But it’s also a widely known fact that writing is difficult enough without staving off what might become a monstrous depression of a scope I’ve managed to avoid until now. It’s difficult enough to write when everything else is going well. 
And I’m not doing well. Not by a long shot. 
And that’s the truth beyond my radio silence. 
People don’t want to hear about the sadness, hurt and pain of others. So… it’s best to try, at least, to limit posts about these things to a bare minimum while burying it in pep, promises, flowers and bunnies. 
But when you’re this tired… This hurt… this… hopeless. There. I’ve said it. Hopeless. All I’ve got left is a grim determination to survive. 
That’s not going to help me write, because right now, writing isn’t giving me anything to eat. 
And it’s certainly not helping my social networking, because grim determination tends not to bring out the snappy tweets, inspirational quotes or wise, philosophical blog posts. 
So in short, I’m basically incapacitated when it comes to writing anything the way I used to. 
It’s difficult for me to be friendly and funny and whatever else when I’m visiting other blogs, so I’ve stopped commenting because I hate writing a comment and feeling that that thing I’ve written just isn’t me. 
But I digress. Grim determination is really not a good place to be in when writing a book. No matter how difficult it is to write, I don’t believe it should be done with gritted teeth and white knuckles. And for all of eleven days, I had a moment of peace within myself. That was when I wrote 20k words. Which is sad to think, because at that rate, I could have written 60k if the peace had lasted. 
Maybe, things will turn around and I’ll regret my apathy toward writing later when I’m way behind (which I am already to the point where falling more behind hardly matters) and suddenly have the opportunity to publish again. But to be honest, that seems like the best case scenario right now. 
How are you doing? 

A Belated Update Day

So after all this time, I finally managed to be way late for my own bloghop. It’s been a long week and I got home so late that I just couldn’t focus. I decided to sit back and sort through my goals for July in the morning (because I didn’t have time to do it all week).
And when I finally managed to sit down and put this post together, I realized that I’ve got to be realistic and completely change the way I’m approaching my goals.
Why?
Let me show you…
Writing Goals:
1) 60 000 words written, 60 hours of edits or some combination of those.
The equivalent of 23k words.
2) Find and submit to Critique Partners for Wo6C3
Sent to one CP and in short, Wo6C3 needs only a ton more work before I can send it out to more.
3) Critique works by critique partners.
I’m waiting for my CP’s work.
4) Edit ES1
Didn’t look at it.
5) Prep rewrite for BvB2.
I managed to think of this a few times before I had to do something else.
6) Complete revisions to O1
I revised two chapters.
7) Add 10000 words to StW1
Added almost 8k words.
8) Work on CdW concept
Nope.
9) Start Sci Fi Project. (Still thinking about an suitable acronym.)
Nope and Nope.
10) Work on concept for a new story that came to me while I rested.
A little bit of this done, but not much in the way of a concrete start.
11) Edit my Untethered Realms anthology story.
Done. Yay. I managed one thing.
Reading:
Read 6 books.
I read 4.
Read some chapters of Les Trois Mousquetaires.
Nope.
Networking and Marketing:
Rethink Social Network Strategy
This I did and it’s huge. So much so that it’s taking a chunk of my writing time to implement.
Regular updates to at least some of the social networks.
This I was spotty on because I’m basically rebuiling my entire social network from scratch in some places.
Confirm new covers for Wo6C series.
Done.

Life:
Maintain balance between life, writing and work.
Bahahahahahaha *cries*
Go to dancing classes once a week.
Didn’t go because the week before I was to go to my first lesson, I discovered that I’m moving again, so I couldn’t sign the membership contract.
Get into the habit of eating more frequent, smaller meals. (Stress and an ulcer don’t mix, so I have to help where I can.)
This I did and also cut way back on carbs and sugars to help even further.
In short: I managed to do precious little that I set out to do.
There are a variety of reasons for this:
1) I’m having to rebuild my day-job business from scratch yet again. Which means I have to put in more hours.
2) I’m having to restructure my social networking (see here if you’re curious as to why and what I’m doing.)
3) I’m a bit of an emotional mess due to reason number 1
4) While being an emotional mess, I default to working on The War of Six Crowns, which means that I broke my own rule of not working on a sequel before the earlier book is ready for publishing, so that I could work on Book 4 while waiting for CP feed back on Book 3. And now Book 3 needs more work.
5) People, I feel like crying this morning.
In short, it’s taken just about two years of unrelenting pressure, but I’ve buckled under. This month was the most unproductive I’ve ever been and it’s been a downward trend from January.
Yesterday, I spoke to my mother about how I’m feeling right now and… It’s not good. I’m exhausted. Completely and utterly. I’ve expended every ounce of my energy to keep going earlier this year and in return I got my suppliers and clients stolen by someone I trusted and nothing to show for it because all the money I’d earned went into surviving.
So.
The situation is this.
I’m not catching a break.
My hard work does not result in anything. Because in this life, it seems, the only thing that matters is being rich or being lucky. I’m neither.
And yet, I can’t just give up, so I have to keep going.
I have to keep working in the hopes that this time I strike it lucky. And heaven knows I’ll keep writing because the day I stop that I might as well stop living.
But I can’t keep trying to do so much because I have readers waiting for Book 3. I probably have one or two people hoping I get the sequel to Endless out too. Since The War of Six Crowns is my happy place, that’s my priority, but other than that, my only priority right now is to survive rebuilding, moving house, and doing everything else I need to do in order to have a shot at making it as a writer.

Sorry if this is way too much of a downer, but this is where I am right now. Hopefully tomorrow is a better day.