One finish line in sight, another beckons

My writing goal for the year is 300,000 words. Accounting for other activities (mostly the time commitment of tutoring), that seemed like a reasonable goal. Right now I’ve completed just over 290,000. Whoops. It looks like I’m about hit my year end goal around the last day in July. Now I need some new goals, or milestones.

Part of the idea of the goal came from Jeff Ambrose. Jeff redraws his approach as he goes too – pretty inspiring.

Here’s how this year’s writing comes out so far:

Two novels written. One (The Tunnel) edited and published as a POD book, and as an ebook, and the other (working title Steel Wagon), currently being proofed. That one’s a literary novel, so I’m sending to a New Zealand agent to see what kind of response it gets. If it doesn’t filter through that system, I’ll similarly self-publish it as a POD and ebook.

Sixteen stories written. These range in length from flash (two) to novellas (two), with most sitting between 6000 and 12,000 words. Five of these have been published, along with another three stories from last year. Four of the stories have been published by magazines/ezines (MicroHorror, Flashes in the Dark and The Colored Lens), the rest have been self-published through Smashwords, mostly under pen names. I’ve also re-published numerous short stories through Smashwords, but as reprints they don’t count towards first publication goals (I’m aiming for publishing 300,000 words as well, in addition to any reprints – sitting at 120,000 so far). I have one story in updating (ie, it’s been edited and proofed and just needs those corrections made), one in proofing, and one in progress. I am still proofing the second novel, but have the first 5000 words about ready to go to an agent.

New goal: 300,000 words by the end of July. Steel Wagon 5000 word sample and synopsis with an agent by August 11th. New literary story completed by 15th August (specifically for the Sunday Star contest). And set a new word-count target for the rest of the year.

I already know that I’ll be writing the second book in The Hidden Dome trilogy (working title – The Deluge) later this year (probably after tutoring finishes in late November), so that’s 60,000 words, more or less. But what to do for August through November?

Well, there is tutoring, so that cuts into time a little. During the last main block my daily writing, usually over 1000 words, slipped down like an eel in a pipe. 132 words on my lowest day. Still, four months is around 120 days, so perhaps 100,000 words is realistic. Combined with the novel, that will put me over 450,000 words for the year. Sounds about right.

The value of a good cover

Currently I do the illustrations for all of my book covers. I have a little bit of an art background (in fact have even had some exhibitions), so while I’m no professional I like to think that I have a reasonable idea of how to make a reasonable picture. Sometimes my covers work and sometimes not so much. Case in point here is my cover for my story Stone Goddess. I had the idea – to suit the story – of a pile of rocks that kind of looks like a statue. I attempted a blend of the rocks with the image of the statue (all rendered in Bryce). There are some elements that work, but I’m not convinced that this cover is going to sell many copies of the story (I think the story is one of my best, but so far has sold zero copies on Smashwords).

I was following Jeff Ambrose (another writer who’s inspired me on writing goals) and found his post about working on his covers. Now I though his covers were pretty good to start with, but some of his new ones are just leaving me in the dust. Look at the one here (used with his permission for illustrative purposes) for his story The Stone Goddess. Wow (and yikes, practically the same title). That illustration is so professional that it ought to help him sell an awful lot of copies of the story. (I’m terrified to read his story for fear that not only is the cover better, but so is the story).

That said, he is using dreamstime (an online resource where artists sell the rights for the use of their illustrations), so the covers are going to be pretty professional. Maybe I should take a lesson from Jeff and start investing a little money, rather than time – especially when a cover isn’t working out so well.

Maybe I’ll buy one of Jesse-lee Lang’s illustrations (she did the picture on the cover of Jeff’s story), and go head-to-head with Jeff.

NB: Cover Art Copyright © by Jesse-lee-Lang,

Word counts, goals and publishing

Around Christmas, following on from Jeff Ambrose I created a word count goal fro 2012. 300,000 words, from 300 available writing days. Just 1000 words a day. As I wrote rapidly for the first week, I realised that I needed to add a couple of things to keep myself going, focused and effective.

Firstly that 1000 words is a minimum. In the first couple of days – January 1st and 2nd – with no other commitments, family, work or otherwise, I wrote 5500 words each day. It would be simple to think that, well, that’s the first eleven days worth knocked off. Nah. Better to reset the counter each morning. So, it’s been a good first week (close to 20,000 words), but this week I’ll be shooting for 1000 words a day again. Each and every day. BTW, a writer friend did suggest I make sure I don’t burnout on that. Can’t see it, but I will monitor things, definitely.

Secondly (and this is for readers more than writers) that’s got to be 300,000 publishable words. Not just spouting, not just rushing to wear out a keyboard. I saw that writing volume is one thing, publishing is another. So that’s my promise. There will be good stuff coming out. Not to say that it’s going to be perfect and nuanced and highly literary – these days I’m more of a pulp writer (though I do tutor in literary craft, and have written and had published numerous literary stories) – but it will be entertaining and readable and compelling.

I have several stories scheduled for publication in various print and online journals, which amounts to arout 50,000 words (as well as several reprints, but I think I should do this without relying on reprints). I have another 60,000ish out on submission to publishers, with another big story heading out this week. If those get rejections all around then I will indie publish them. I feel in good shape.

I will also have to create time for editing, revision, proofreading, reading other writers, editing anthologies, etc.

2012 writing goals

Following Jeff Ambrose’s post on his word count goals, I’ve been looking at what I’m keen to achieve in 2012. Similar to Jeff, I can write around 1000 words an hour, though with a full-time job, and a part-time job (which I may or may not have again 2012), I’m pretty committed time-wise. Add in family time and so on I figure I can manage to write like this:

1000 words a day. Some days it will be 2000, some days – as when I get to take a retreat – it might be 8000), but say an average of 1000 words a day. That’s finished, polished, ready to publish words. I’ve been thinking about some of the things Dean Wesley Smith has to say about too much rewriting and revising, and realize that many of my stories are strongest in their first-draft version and that too much polishing might strengthen the writing, but weaken the story. I’m going with story and will trust my writing to be coherent. I will still have readers, do proof-reading and spell-checking. This does contradict what I said in an interview with Shells Walter, but I guess I’m coming from a new place now.

365 days in the year. Tutoring takes four blocks of three weeks. I write a little bit during these periods, but not enough to count on. So that leaves 280 writing days.

280,000 words then. Okay, I’m going to make that 300,000 – a bit more of an even number to shoot for. For twenty days I’m going to have to write 2000, rather than 1000 words. In some ways it sounds kind of low – 1000 words is easy, but I liked the thoughtful way that Jeff was very practical about his goals, figuring in a little bit of life as well.

300,000 words. How will I spend that?

If I write two novels at 75,000 words, that’s 150,000. A couple of short novels at 25,000 words – novellas, I guess – so that’s another 50,000. Say five long stories at 10,000 and ten short stories at 5,000. That’s 300,000. Some of the stories will be shorter, some perhaps longer. Maybe one of the full novels will be 60,000 words. I’ll keep at that target of 300,000, adding in some stories as I go.

I know some of the stories I want to write. Three for short story contests in New Zealand (actually all have word limits around 3,000 so there is a little space for more stories). Four stories for international competitions. Stories to sent to the pro mags, and some to put up with Triple V Publishing.

I have ideas for the novels, enough to write an outline and get underway. Once I have a start point, and an end in mind I’ll just go.

I guess I should do monthly progress reports too.

Anyway, thanks Jeff and Dean, for helping to point the way.