Tag Archives: Goals

Financial Writing Goals

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It can feel a little icky to have writing goals that involve money. Most of the goals I’ve created over the years have been about words per day, books completed, or projects undertaken. In other words, purely artistic goals. But the truth is one of the unspoken, pie in the sky, long term goals of mine is to be able to live off the writing, or at the very least have the writing make things easier.

This year I have two main goals or mantras:

  1. Earn more than $500 (net) from writing.
  2. The writing funds the writing.

Goal 1 is about breaking out of the bottom third of author yearly earnings (according to The Guardian in 2015). It’s not a huge amount of money in the grand scheme, and the hourly rate is abysmal, but it’s a start. Four months in, this looks like an attainable goal, particularly if I can get some work selling shorter pieces.

Goal 2 is about investing in the business side. Selling books to a bookstore funds buying another order of books. Selling coloring books funds research material for my next book. Amazon profits go to buying writing supplies and notebooks. This goal is not strictly fenced in by any means (I’ve raised nearly $90 toward the writing just by selling things I no longer need), but it is a broad principle intended to keep expenses in check. Keeping the cost of writing a book below the money earned from it would be a great place to be (it took the first fractal book at least a year to reach this point).

Both of these goals drive writing and creative decisions throughout the year. Over the weekend I created a short story to submit to a magazine, which in turn might drive some people toward the universe of Surreality. I’ve subscribed to a number of Facebook groups that show listings for paid articles and am working up some submissions. This feeds the artistic side in that it demands versatility, requires the ability to get work done in a timely fashion, and keeps the brain creative and from getting into ruts. In other words, money goals can drive creative goals.

I won’t be hugely disappointed if these goals are not strictly met. Just shooting for them puts me into places I might not have tried without them. And earning some money makes this feel more like a profession, and less like a hobby.

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Writing Process

Brian did a post on this Monday and the questions looked interesting enough that I thought I’d take a crack at it:

What am I working on?

Well the big project right now is the final revision of Surreality. I’ve been working on the book on and off for seven years (oof!) with some significant time off in between to write other books including a certain fractal book. This revision I started around November and hope to be finished so it’s something you can enjoy in late July or the dog days of August.

I’m in the development stages for a couple of books, including my rewrite of Dark Matter, a second volume of the fractal book, and another non-fiction project I’ve been kicking around based on a certain hobby of mine.

And I write this blog three times a week (hopefully), plus once a week over at Going Deeper. I’m hoping to get a few short stories started soon, once I can stop thinking of novels to write.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I like mysteries that rely less on crime labs and forensics and more on a knowledge of human nature, and good intuition. Surreality is a technological/noir story told from the perspective of someone who is decidedly not technically minded.

For science fiction I tend to be more of the futuristic variety than the big empires and tons of different alien races. Where will the human race be in 50 years or 100? People are recognizable, only the technology has changed.

Why do I write what I do?

The easy answer is I write what I like to read. But my stories also have a tendency to deal with some of the subjects about which I am most passionate and concerned such as the technological singularity, or the increasing role of technology and social media in our lives. And for my mystery series I’ve been enjoying injecting the local culture of the place where I live into the story. The decision to make this a Columbus mystery (my wife’s idea by the way), not just another story set in San Francisco has really shaped the work in some interesting ways and helped me to find a voice for my characters they’d never had before.

How does my writing process work?

I’m a pantser, meaning I tend to know my beginning, middle and end, but not all of the connective tissue when I write. On the one hand this offers a degree of freedom in first drafts, but often necessitates a lot of second and third drafts to make the story really up to snuff.

For this revision I’ve been retyping the entire draft, not just copying existing text. Usually when I’m typing I find it easier to make the little phrasing changes, or cuts or insertions then just staring at a screen.

All this being said this process is constantly under flux. I’ve changed writing goals per day from 1600 words to 800  (less words but more carefully chosen). And I’m most likely going to need an outline for my next mystery. So it really changes from book to book.

Case in point, the non-fiction was probably the best suited to my changing moods as a writer. If I didn’t feel like writing a chapter, there was always formatting work, image generation or some other task that would be making progress even if it isn’t writing. This is probably why I’m considering working on a non-fiction project and a fiction project at the same time, so I’m always using my energy toward something useful.

I don’t read my stories aloud but I have my kindle read them to me. This works well for exposition, but not so well for dialogue since the kindle doesn’t sense the need for pauses very well.

Here’s a question Dave Higgins or Brian didn’t ask:

What’s your lifetime goal?

C’mon, all of us writers have one of these. For me it’s probably 20-30 books and a couple of collections of short stories. I’d like to eventually make enough money off the writing that it’s all I have to do, but I recognize that goal may take a long time and is subject to a lot of factors. But 20-30 books is totally doable in a lifetime (especially if I can get them to come out better the first time 🙂 ). But simpler than all of this is that I want to write until I no longer can draw breath. I have more ideas than I’ll ever be able to fully explore, and I’d like to share as many of them as possible.

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Fancy Pants Language

The purpose of writing is to convey meaning, to communicate.

This communication can be anything. It could be a thought, an image, an idea, an emotion, or even just a list. But the bottom line is that writing is meant to be understood by others.*

So why do we so often obfuscate (render obscure, unclear, or unintelligible) our writing?

“Eschew obfuscation, espouse elucidation” or put in more plain terms “avoid being unclear, support being clear” (thanks Wikipedia).

Sometimes we use language as a way to communicate that we are smart, or at least smarter than we may appear. Sometimes we use language to gain an advantage over others, to make them feel dumber and less knowledgeable. And sometimes we simply can’t help ourselves.

So here are some guidelines for when to use the five dollar word, and when to try something with less than three syllables:

1) Know your audience: Certain audiences expect certain language. In a business meeting for instance, don’t ever miss an opportunity to use the word utilize instead of the word use.

2) Know the word you’re using: Unsure of a word’s exact and precise meaning? Look it up or don’t use it.

3) Does this word convey a precise and specific meaning not conveyed by the shorter or more commonly known word? If not, then examine why you need to use it.

4) What is the purpose of this piece of writing? There is no one size fits all approach to this. For technical writing, precise correct words are desired. For a blog post meant to be read in 3-4 minutes with your morning coffee, maybe keep it simple.

5) Explain yourself: It’s not necessarily patronizing to provide a definition. In a blog post this can be done with a link, or between commas or parenthesis, something the reader who knows the word can skip (or check to make sure you know what you’re talking about).

6) It does not mean you’re not smart when you write clearly and concisely: In fact it tends to mean just the opposite. If you really understand something, you can explain it to others at whatever level they’re coming in with.

7) Use different words: You’d be amazed how many ways there are to say the same thing. Take Google’s definition of obfuscation from above (obscure, unclear, unintelligible). Or how about convey, teach, explain, etc.? Avoiding repetition in writing communicates that you have a command of the language more than flowery words.

What’s the most obscure word you use all the time? What is the most recondite word you utilize habitually?

*Excluding diaries, private writing, etc.

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Write Goals 2014

Last year some of you may have read my “Setting the write goals” post. In this season of New Year’s resolutions I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on 2013 and share with you my goals for 2014.

2013 was a pretty great year, not the least of which because of you. At the end of 2012 about 300 people followed this blog. Now it’s almost ten times that number and more every day. I really appreciate those of you who stuck it out with me in the early days when I was just figuring this blogging thing out, and all of you who’ve made this blog a part of your routine in the last year. I hope to give you even more to enjoy in the coming year, including hopefully one or two serial stories and theme weeks.

I self-published my first book, and as of this writing have sold more than 120 copies. That might not sound like a whole lot, and it’s certainly not the runaway blockbuster hit of the year, but it’s still something I’m very proud of. The fractal book has sold in at least six countries (Bundle Dragon doesn’t do country of sale stats so I’m not sure where those are all coming from). If you consider the fact that I am not a well-known author and I’m writing on a niche subject this has been going really well. I read a Forbes article last month that said 20% of self-published authors report receiving no income at all for their work and most make about $1 to $4999. I’m happy to say I’m inside that range. Frankly, this was a labor of love, and on that metric alone I’m very happy I wrote this book.

Interesting side note by the way. The authors who seemed to earn the most were the ones who were “hybrids”, traditionally and self-published. Something to keep in mind for your future writing goals and strategies.

So what are my goals for 2014?

1) Self-publish Surreality in the first half of 2014 – There are a number of sub-ideas with this, including trying out CreateSpace and Kindle Select, but the big goal is to get one book of my fiction out to you in time for your beach reading season. Surreality’s been a project I’ve been working on for a number of years in the background, and I can’t wait to share it all with you.

2) Submit at least one short story to a magazine – I’d love to get to the three published stories required for SFWA (Science Fiction Writer’s of America) membership, but success will be measured by putting my work out there into a more traditional setting.

3) Earn $1000 from writing in 2014 – This is my stretch goal, and might seem a little out of place as a writing goal. This goal is less about the money and more about doing all of the things necessary to make it happen (i.e. putting out a book or two, marketing, submitting to magazines etc.).

4) Finish a 2nd draft of another novel – It’s likely to be a follow-up to Surreality. I haven’t forgotten about DM, but that’s probably scheduled for 2015 at this point. While I’m not sure if the book will be up to publishing standard by the end of the year, I want it to be well along the way so you can see it next year at the latest.

5) This one’s a surprise – There’s one more project I intend to finish next year, but for now that’s under wraps. Let’s just say it’ll be a treat for all of you who follow the blog.

As I stated in my post from last year, these goals are subject to change, revision, removal, etc.

What about you, what are some of your goals for next year (writing or otherwise)?

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Changing Gears

I published my first book a few weeks ago.

The fact that it was a programming book about fractals (and that I started to type fract instead of fact at the beginning of that sentence) is as much a surprise to me as it is to you.

Writing projects take on an identity of their own with me. They get their own mono-graphed coffee mugs (well, actually they don’t but that would be sweet and I should totally do that for Surreality). But I do have a process involving buying new flash drives, configuring the portable apps I think I’ll need, and repacking my “go bags” to include the appropriate material.

Right now I’m still using my fractal “go bags” which include more eReaders than I probably need at any one time, and fractal references I am trying to resist reading til at least this next fiction project is done. (I’m also trying not to buy any more fractal books, but I haven’t quite got that down yet).

I think the thing that is most surprising to me is how energized and how tired I am at the same time. I am chomping at the bit to re-read Surreality and begin the revision process anew, but I am also more exhausted than I realized from the 14 month blitz that was the fractal book, then bundle. Part of it is lack of creative energy, and part of it is physical exhaustion from a lot of late nights, and altogether too much coffee.

I had intended to pick up some video game as a distraction but in my recreational time I haven’t had the energy to do more than binge watch Star Trek: Enterprise (which if you can ignore Bakula is pretty okay). But realistically my brain is already in all Surreality all the time mode, even if I don’t have the energy to turn those thoughts into words.

My 35 minute commute, which was spent composing algorithms and plotting out the day’s fractal generation, is now being spent visualizing scenes, and re-writing them in my head. I may need to consider some kind of dictation machine if this keeps up.

But I am excited. I started some of my revisions of Surreality earlier this week, writing some new material for a scene and was pleased to discover it was fun to write these characters again. And the fractal book isn’t over yet. I’m still thinking of ways to get reviews, and get the word out to math associations and anyone else who’s willing to read it.

What was supposed to be kind of a break is turning out to be one of my busiest times ever.

Sadly, or maybe not so sadly, I don’t think I’d have it any other way.

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What’s Next?

I think friend of the blog Chuck put it best to me a few weeks ago. “When are you going to finish that &$#%! fractal book so we can see some of your fiction?”

Well, the book’s done, and should be on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in a week or so. So what’s next for [BTW]?

At the moment I’ve got three fiction projects in various stages of development. The top seed project is Surreality, a noir/technological mystery that I hope to have out to you by late 2013, early 2014. Surreality was actually the book I started working on after a long writing hiatus, and was also the first project I collaborated on with my editor/wife. I’m really excited to be actively working on fiction again, and this story in particular. As is typical of me, this one started as a short story, but the story I wanted to tell evolved first into a novel, and now probably into a series, though each book will be a self-contained mystery.

I’m also hoping to start the revision process up again for Dark Matter, my science fiction thriller, whose first draft I finished just prior to starting this blog. Writing [BTW] has helped me to develop a tighter writing style which I’m hoping to apply to this revision. Basically I need to take a 200K word book (Dune) and shrink it down to 125K (a little less than twice Surreality). My drafting process for Dark Matter was a little chaotic. For a while I’ve been writing first drafts with no chapters, just moving from scene to scene, with set word count goals for the day. While I think this can be a great way to let ideas flow out unfettered, I think I’d have a lot less work in revision if I drafted more like I do for the blog. With this in mind I’m going to try and redraft Dark Matter within a year, and maybe have a release version out to you by the end of 2014.

The last story, Atlantia, is a redraft of the first novel I ever completed, back in high-school. I got a good start on this redrafting process during NaNoWriMo 2011, and will probably try to work on it next year. I’d like to get this writing process down to six months for each book, but I still have a ways to go.

As for other goals, I’m working on giving the wife a night or two where I don’t mention the book, and taking my own little rest-bits between projects. Realistically I can’t wait to work on the next project, and I know the “little red-haired girl” loves me for it, even if I make her want to pull her hair out sometimes. Trust me, being married to a writer, and more than that actively working on projects with one, is not for everyone.

I am a very lucky man.

What are your next writing goals?

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Crossing The Finish Line

You’ve been working on a book for a year, perhaps more, and you are finally approaching the end of some significant milestone (first draft, first revision, or possibly even publishing), what do you do to celebrate?

My first draft of my first novel ever written took four years. I finished my senior year of high-school and my reward was a bottle of sparkling grape juice (closest thing to champagne for an 18 year old) and the realization I had 193,000 words to edit. (BTW, the book in question is titled Atlantia and I redrafted the first 50,000 words of it a few years ago for NaNoWriMo. It’ll come out one of these days).

Since then I’ve often used champagne as my little reward for a job well done, which is funny since the little red haired girl has to open the bottle. Never have gotten the hang of how those corks pop. (Some psychologist might say it goes back to a childhood game that involved sitting on balloons to pop them which also explains my distaste for the sound of a popped balloon).

For the Fractal Book I’ve selected a game (and the accompanying time to play it) as reward, since it’ll be the first to be widely shared with the world. True to form the game is a sci-fi RPG from 1999 which features songs from David Bowie and apparently an in-game concert appearance by a character modeled after him, Omikron: The Nomad Soul. (Never been a giant fan of Bowie (I didn’t grow up liking the Labyrinth) but the game sounds cool). I’m holding off on buying it til I’m finished to avoid the temptation to play it and put off the book.

I’ve bought plenty of games (and the occasional bottle of champagne) prior to the completion of the book, but it’s kind of fun to have a specific reward in mind, something I’m denying myself until I’m done. Just a way to sweeten what’s already gonna be a pretty great moment (finishing the book).

Got any big plans for your next big novel milestone?

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