Update Day: The End of Year 1

Today is the last Friday of the month, which means it’s time for another update on the Got Goals Bloghop. For those of you unfamiliar with Update Day, a bunch of us set some crazy or just plain important goals and update each other on our progress once a month. If you would like more information or to just see who else is taking part, please click here.

PLEASE NOTE IF YOU ARE ALREADY A PARTICIPANT: The site hosting the linky sign-up is down, so please follow the link above to be taken to a blog post where you can leave your update link.

On 4 September, 2016, I had decided to reset my goals and approach writing as a full-time job, where I use my writing knowledge in various ways in order to make a sustainable income.

When I started out, a lot of people thought I was nuts. Heck. Some days, especially in November, I felt I was nuts.

But here I am.

I made it.

So I thought I’d share my thoughts on my progress.

I’ve been earning minimum wage pretty much consistently this year.

This is both a good and a bad thing. On the good side, the money I earned was enough to keep me and my family going during hard times.

On the bad, I would have liked to earn more by now.

The probable reason why I didn’t? When I had started out, I had planned to use the money I make to market my books to sell more of them, which would have generated extra income aside from the freelancing I now do.

But that money basically went into surviving for a large chunk of the year, and otherwise to keep my freelance side of the business afloat. So about 90% of my income is from freelancing, where I would have liked a more even split between my sources of income. And given that those other sources of income would have been passive, meaning I didn’t need to do much myself to earn the money, I fell short of where I wanted to be.

That said, the fact that I’ve been generating pretty much an even income every month means that I should be able to use my freelance work as a spine as I spend next year preparing to publish more books again.

I finally finished Book 3.

Ah yes. Book 3.

Number 1 reason why I didn’t publish anything this year: My life went to hell in a handbasket starting around February.

Number 2 reason: Book 3 itself. The War of Six Crowns is my major focus, writing-wise, so I’ve basically put all my available time into getting it publishing-ready. The problem is I completely underestimated the sheer size of this project.

A lot of times this year, Book 3 felt like a bottomless, endless pit and, it wasn’t only a case of not being able to finish it on schedule, but also the fact that I literally couldn’t work on anything else all year.

I finished rewriting Book 3 in August, about nine months after I had planned to publish it. Now I’m taking the approach of it’s going to take as long as it’s going to take, because after putting in this amount of work, I’m really not excited to rush it to market without being happy with the quality.

Getting something done is like opening a nesting doll.

Maybe it’s because of the way I look at things, but sometimes it feels like everything is connected to everything else. And sometimes, it can be hard to see what needs to be done first. Do I finish writing a book or do I update my website? Do I update my covers and interior or do I set up the newsletter so I can include the newsletter sign-up? Do I spend the morning freelancing so I can get this job out of the way, or do I spend it writing so I can actually make progress on my own work?

And so on.

And if I do manage to finish one thing, I take another look and see a thousand more. This often makes it feel like I’m not really making a lot of progress, but as I sit here, looking back, I’m awed.

And I know that I laid some groundwork for an astounding Year 2.

How are you doing? Do you have any major goals you’re working on?

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Update Day: Warning. This Is a Big One.

Hey everyone! Yesterday was the last Friday of the month, which means it was time for another Update Day. Sadly for me, I was forced to miss updating in time because the Internet went down.

For those of you wondering what on Earth I’m talking about, a few of us writers are taking part in a bloghop hosted by me and Jen Garrett, where we set crazy or just seriously important goals, and then post updates on the last Friday of the month.

A lot of stuff has happened though, which has solidified my priorities, so bewarned, this is going to be a long post as I set out and explain my major goals for the next few weeks and months ahead. Ready?

Okay strap in.

So How Did I Do?

It was a bit of a mixed bag for me, with a lot of fails mixed in with my success.

The big thing is:

I finished drafting Book 3! *sparkly confetti*
 

 
Everything else… Meh.

Book 3 got done with about 20k words left to spare, and once I did that, I just couldn’t keep the momentum going on another project. Used to be that I could easily switch between projects, but I’m out of practice because Book 3 has basically been taking up all my creative mind space for the past two years.

So this Camp NaNo, despite me doing awesome for as long as I was writing, is going to be a lose for me. Oh well.

And as for my social media… I tried to update my blog once a week on Fridays, which I mostly succeeded at, but I skipped last week because I was drained from finishing Book 3. (I did the last chapters in an eight-thousand-word marathon.)

Because of this and a whole lot of other stuff I’ll get into in a bit, I also didn’t get around to vlogging. I have recorded a video, but didn’t edit it because I thought it would be better if my first update in a while was for this post… And then I got busy with this other thing and didn’t record the video.

*Sigh.*

I was active on twitter and I estimate I’ve gained close to 200 followers between my two accounts, so that’s a win.

Then, I also did two mammoth editing jobs for clients and am now working on a third, AND I’ve been working on the covers for The War of Six Crowns, the series. And man. The updated cover for The Vanished Knight is gorgeous. I think it might be my best yet, and the concept for the series of covers really has me excited, because it’s a major challenges.

Then I’ve also managed to do some reading.

AND! Once I’ve wrapped up Book 3, I’ve started kicking my unhealthy lifestyle to the curb.

Wow. Now that I’m listing everything I’ve achieved… I’ve actually had an epic month.

What Would I Like to Do in the Next Few Months?

Writing 

Because Book 3 needs to rest, I’m going to work on something else. And some of you guys, who’ve beta’ed for me in the past, will possibly be glad to know I’ve decided to do some work on Eden’s Son, my Historical Romance.

I just really need a change of pace from Book 3, and I though it could be nice if I managed to wrap up ES1 and publish it this year, since it’s the second oldest story I’ve written and the oldest of my story concepts. (I’ve been working on various iterations of this story basically forever. In fact, the first novel I ever started to write is a book in this series, before I realized that there was a lot of story before that book that needed to be told first.)

Also, at the risk of sounding really cynical, it would be nice if I have a romance out to help stabilize my writing income. But I freaking love this story, so it’s going to be a pleasure to get it done after sixteen odd years.

Publishing and Marketing Stuff

There is soooooooooooo much I need to do that I haven’t gotten around to before. I just couldn’t focus on all this when I had Book 3 staring at me like a baleful child. But now it’s done, So I can at least to do the following:

1) Regular blog and vlog posts.

I at least want to get back to my Monday/Friday schedule, with Friday featuring a vlog post of some sort. For that, I’m probably going to start filming a whole lot of videos on writing topics that I can edit as needed so I have a bit more of a buffer for when I’m busy, and then I’m going to do my more personal vlog updates on the fly when I have the opportunity. I want my Monday blog posts to relate to my Friday posts in some way, so that’s also going to help me get some content done in time. Although I love being all nice and personal, I also realize that adding value is something I haven’t been able to do for years, so I need to fix that.

2) Continue with my graphic design self-study. 

Believe it or not, I’ve gone from designing my own covers because it’s cheaper to designing my own covers because I love them more than I do when someone else designs for me. So to save myself the pain and tears of having to learn things the hard way, I’m doing a graphic design course so I can get a better concept of what’s going on and how to achieve what I want to achieve with my covers.

I’m a terrible boss to myself. My whole feeling is that if I’m going to self publish, all aspects of the production of my book needs to be better than what anyone else would have done for me. That means I’m learning some mad skills. Helps that my freelancing activities are basically paying me to learn stuff.

3) Update my website. 

This is another thing where my graphic design is going to come in handy. My old author website is so out of date that I don’t even point people at it anymore. So that needs to be fixed. Before that can happen, though:

4) Update the cover to The Heir’s Choice. 

I need to implement the ideas I have brewing for that cover and as a bonus, do a few fixes on the cover to Endless while I’m at it. Once those are done, I can get into building the new site. (Which is another skill I’m having to learn. Insane, but makes sense given my other job… More on this later.)

5) Set-up a newsletter (or three) with a signup page on my website. 

I’ve resisted the newsletter thing for a while because I didn’t believe I had enough people interested in reading a newsletter. Thanks to Wattpad, this has now changed. The Vanished Knight now has close to 250k reads and a whole lot of people who keep contacting me for updates on Book 3.

6) Update the front and back-matter of my books to point to the website and newsletter. 
And while I’m at it, I’m just going to reformat the whole shebang. I’ve learned a boatload of new stuff since self-publishing the first time. So I’m taking the books up to the next level.

CEO Duties

You didn’t read that wrong. For the first time since I’ve finished my degree and started working for the family business, my mom’s let me be the boss.

I think I mentioned that we were working on another business thing where we had some investors interested in the project… Well… that concept underlying the business was my idea, so my mom and I agreed that I need to be in charge of it, although she’s the MD, which means she’s going to be the one to do the actual day-to-day running of the business once it’s up.

But basically, where we are requires a prototype of a site to be built for coders and also potential investors. And since this is a monster project and I hate people telling me “can’t do it,” we’re going to build the first prototype ourselves to help outsiders see what we’re envisaging.

Which is, again, where learning some site-building skills will come in. Fun fact, the site has so many working parts that I’m probably going to be able to build a seriously ambitious author site…as practice.

Freelancing

Depending on how much time I’m going to spend on the monster site, this is probably going to be the thing that gets a down-grade on my priority list. I’m going to try and not down-scale my freelancing in favor of my site because I still want to be a full-time writer (and the owner of a monster site.)

But. It it’s going to come down to a choice between my writing/publishing, the site, and the freelancing, I think you can see why the freelancing will be the first to give.

Hopefully, though, I’ll be able to get everything done. And the amazing amount of stuff I pulled off in July without feeling on the verge of collapse gives me hope.

My Health 

Here’s something I haven’t really brought up in a while. Mostly because it’s embarrassing, how bad I am at taking care of myself.

Why? Because I know how bad certain foods are to me. I know how important it is, especially to me, not to just sit on my butt day-in and day-out. I know that eating healthily and exercising actually give me the energy I need to tackle major projects without getting drained. I know that sixteen-hour work days invariably come back to bite me in the butt at some point. In some really ugly ways. Especially when I’m not eating healthily or exercising.

But did that have any impact at all on my refined sugar intake, exercise habits, water consumption or work hours?

Not.
One.
Jot. 

But when I finished up Book 3, I felt like I could rule the world, and then just kinda thought I could start by not screwing myself in the long run. I’d like to actually have a functional body when I’m old, so this is actually a bit of a priority.

1) Diet

No, I don’t mean this in the “starve-myself and get trim” kind of way. I’m talking about changing my diet permanently. Which means no refined carbs and sugars. I know a lot of people have a fit every time I mention not consuming carbs as a major part of my diet. But you know what? The only time I really feel normal, when I’m not feeling like I’m going to crash, or get a massive headache any moment now, or just feel like I don’t have the strength to do something, or even, for that matter, that I’m constantly hungry, even when I’m getting up from the table, is when I’m on a high-fat, low-carb diet. So that’s what I’m doing.

I’m not completely giving up carbs. I’m just getting mine in by consuming vegetables, fruit and honey instead of starch.

2) Weight 

Yeah yeah, I’m beautiful as I am. Really I am. This isn’t a self-confidence thing as I was blessed with an ability to tie my confidence to issues other than my body.

But.

Being at the heaviest weight I’ve ever been at the age of 28 is not good for my back, which is something I have injured in the past. (More on this in a bit.) Also, my family has a history of heart disease and diabetes, both of which are tied to unhealthy diets and obesity. And yes. I’m blessed with a body that evenly distributes fat when I gain weight, but I am, in fact obese.

So to save myself a lot of heartache and pain now, I’m going to get the weight down and keep it down. And so you know, I had just short of 40 kg (88 lb) to lose when I started on Sunday. So far this week, I’m 2.5 kg (5 lb 8 oz) down.

3) Water 

People always get told that they need 2 liters (half a gallon) of water a day, but did you know your requirement is actually determined by your weight? The heavier you are, the more water you require.

So when I decided to track my weight and fix my diet, I also got myself an app to track my intake and remind myself to drink water. This might seem extreme, but I tend to forget to drink water when I write. So now I don’t.

And just so you know, the goal for my current weight is 3.5 liters (7.4 liquid pints) per day. And if you think that’s impossible to do. It’s not.

4) Exercise 

As I mentioned before, I have injured my back in the past, so being overweight really doesn’t help. And the whole reason I got injured in the first place was because my core was weak. And all I’ve done in the years since is let my core weaken further.

No more.

I’ve signed up for an app called 30 Day Challenge. It has a variety of exercise challenges based on what you want to focus on and how fit you are. The exercises are really intensive, mostly body-weight-resistance exercises, which means that the five-minute sessions I’m currently on are really making a huge difference to my body.

One wouldn’t think that five minutes would help, but my core has gone from being able to support me for at most five seconds of plank to thirty seconds of plank in a week. And if you don’t think that’s impressive, I don’t think you’ve done the plank before.

The exercises never give me that “no-pain-no-gain” feeling, because they seem to be designed to be *just* enough to challenge the participant without demoralizing them. But every single day is just a little bit more challenging than the day before. And I assume that eventually, almost without noticing, I’ll be in a place where I’ll be able to do hours of exercise if I want without actually finding it to be daunting or impossible. (Which I do now.)

This is mostly weight training, though, so I’ve started dancing again to get some cardio in. This week, I went to my first ever line dancing class, but I have a huge hankering for ballroom again too, so I might take that as well.

5) My lifestyle in general. 

Other than the eating, water drinking and exercise, I also really need to sort out a few other things. Firstly, my sleeping patterns. Because of my insane (and I don’t mean this as a self-compliment) work-ethic, I often work until 3 a.m. in the morning and start my day between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. I take almost no breaks from my computer once I sit down.

So. I have to institute a stricter work-hour rule, where I don’t pass a certain time, and where I then have to at least do something to rest in the evening. This can be reading or even some sort of craft. Or the dancing classes.

Point is, I know I’m going to burn out if I continue keeping the hours I’m keeping, so I’m going to adapt now before I’m forced to by my own exhaustion.

Balance is the thing I’m going for here, so I’m going to literally schedule in time to rest because otherwise I’m just going to forget. (Same way I forget to drink water.)

Whoa that’s a lot, so I’m going to stop here for now. But how did you do? Anyone feel like joining me on the 30 Day Challenge? 

Update Day: Wait. Where’d June Go?

Hey everyone! It’s the last Friday of the month, which means it’s time for an update for my Got Goals? bloghop. More information and sign-up guidelines can be found here.

How I Did

Looking at my total income for the month, you’d think not that well, but that would brush aside the fact that I’ve had another surge of work coming in at the end of the month, which won’t show until July.
Besides that, I also did a lot of work that will hopefully have long-term pay-offs, which I won’t see just yet.
Writing-wise: I made my goal of a 10-minute average for the month.
YouTube and Social Networking: … Everything went well until last week Monday. I just haven’t touched ground since then. To give you an idea, I’m writing this at 10:44 p.m. on Friday night. Because it’s literally the first open moment I’ve had. I wanted to do this as a vlog post, but I didn’t have the time to record, much less edit the video.

Goals for July

I did a crazy thing and signed up for Camp NaNo. So the goal is to write 50k words in July and hopefully finish Book 3.
For me to do this, I really have to sort out my schedule so that I have at least two writing hours available every day, regardless of whether I have anything else to do. So this month I’ll be aiming for a 2-hour daily average for my writing.
If I don’t make that, it’s fine, but I think two hours a day is a nice amount that should be in the realm of possibility for me. So it’ll definitely be something I want to strive towards.
Here’s the thing, though, I want to do that without disrupting my social networking and freelancing. And this is often where I falter. I get the feeling that one or the other will fall by the way-side as I’m trying to sort all this out, but I’m going to cut me some slack and say that I’m going to call any progress in July a win.
What about you? Are you joining Camp NaNo? Do you manage to balance your life with your writing? HOW DO YOU DO IT? I HAVE TO KNOW!

Update Day, May 2017

Hey all! I decided I’m going to try something different today. As you know, I have been vlogging for a while, but I also realized that not everyone can watch the video whenever they visit my blog. 

So today, I decided to put the video up top, and then follow it with the script from which the video is based. Please let me know what you think of this format!

Gosh, I can’t believe how much time has been flying by lately. It seemed like a few days ago that I last posted a vlog update, so I was quite shocked to see that it was three months ago. But there you go. Sometimes life and time get in the way, and the next thing you know, it’s the end of May. Ugh. Untentional rhyme.

But because we’re now on the last Friday of May, it’s time for me to share an update for my GotGoals bloghop. In case you’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about…

I’m co-hosting a bloghop with Jen and Brittney, where we set some crazy, big or just really important writerly goals. Then on the last Friday of the month, we post updates on the progress we’ve made.

I also find it useful to set smaller monthly goals, which I then use as stepping stones toward my bigger goals.

So how did I do?

Well, for the fact that I somehow completely let time get away from me this month, surprisingly well. Okay so I have to say that I didn’t set the bar particularly high, because I was trying to find my feet after quite a lot of crap. But I did say I wanted to write an average of five minutes per day.

And you know what? I hit that average on day two. It’s funny how averages work that way.

That said, the one thing that did take a hit this month was my freelancing. I’ve basically been endlessly working on some job or the other for the past three months, then got a big job at the end of last month and then… crickets. The frustrating thing is that I got that job and it was supposed to take two weeks, but my client hit a snag with the content I’m supposed to format. It’s really not her fault or anything like that, but the net effect is that I’m stuck waiting for her to get back to me. I know eventually that’ll get done, though, so it’s nice to know the money is still hanging around somewhere, waiting for me.

Then I went from nothing to having three jobs to do, but they all only came in over this past weekend, so I will only be able to record the income in June.

So things are really not going badly, but the sudden three week silence really got to me, because I’ve let everything else fall by the way-side over the past few months. It’s really annoying when I wish I could say I spent my empty days writing, but no, they were all spent catching up on a huge admin backlog.

I just realized that if I want to make any progress to the next level, and… you know, actually have more than five minutes a day to write, I need to get some help in. Luckily for me, I have an awesome brother who wants some flexible part time hours while he studies, et voila. I now have an assistant who’s going to help me keep everything rolling on schedule.

Which means that I’ll be able to regularly update as well. Eh…hopefully.

So with that in mind, next month’s goals:

1) Write an average of 10 minutes every day.
2) Earn $1000 of writing or publishing related income.
3) Weekly updates to my vlog.
4) Sort out the snarling mess that is my social networks as a whole.

That’s it from me for this month. Please do leave me a comment about today’s post structure. And how did your month go? Got any crazy writing goals that you’re chasing down? If you’d like to join the bloghop, you can find more information here

Update Day: DOH!

Sigh.

It’s finally happened. After three years, I finally managed to forget my own bloghop. >_<

I remembered on Thursday and then yesterday, I had to clean out the garage (it was a public holiday in South Africa) and I was so exhausted by the end of it (huge garage… looooooooooots of stuff) that I completely forgot about literally everything I was supposed to do.

Sorry!

But I have to at least give a bit of an update, so here’s my Update Day post anyhow. For those of you wondering what all this is about, a bunch of us have set some huge or just super important goals. On the last Friday of every month, we post updates on how we’re doing. The accountability and encouragement just does wonders.

You’re more than welcome to sign up. All you have to do is click here.

Last month, I decided to be a bit more kind to myself than I was lately, so I haven’t really set much in the way of writing and money goals.
It’s just hard to chase down goals (impossible, even) if you’re barely able to keep going because it feels like you’re drowning.
To give you an idea of where I was this past month, you can check out my previous post. It wasn’t pretty.
But then you guys reminded me that sometimes, it’s just necessary to step back. So I decided to go quiet. To stop pushing and prodding myself.
I picked up my needlework again because the repetition of stitch after stitch just soothes me. And good thing, because there’s about 250,000 stitches to my current project.
And slowly, without me really realizing it, I started to feel better.
So for this month, I’m going to see if I can maintain what I’ve been managing lately, plus a few minutes of writing every day. Let’s say five minutes.
Just a simple addition, to see if I can ease myself in as simply and as painfully as possible.
How are you doing? 

Update Day: New Year, New Goals

Hey everyone!

This is my Update Day post for the Got Goals? Bloghop. Same bloghop as the one you’ve been seeing on the last Friday of every month, but now with a new (extra) name and button. For those of you wondering what this is about, a bunch of us set some crazy, huge or crazy important goals, and to keep ourselves motivated, we post monthly updates and encourage each other.

As I mentioned, we usually post the updates on the last Friday of the month, but we made an exception for December’s post in order to give everyone time.

I’m doing things a little differently, by recording a vlog with my goals, and not really looking at my progress for December. (Sensible, because there was very little progress made after I decided to give myself a break.)

 

Do you set goals in January? How did your goals go last year?

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?