Archive for writing life

writing life

Fiction Friday: Brainstorming Day

After coming up with the idea for doing Fiction Fridays a couple of weeks ago, I might actually get to do it this week. I launched a book and finished one proofing pass on another. I wrapped up the freelance articles I’ve been working on. There’s administrative work I could be doing, but none of it is urgent. I have a virtual conference Zoom roundtable discussion this afternoon, but other than that, I have a day free for making up stuff. And that means I’m going to start brainstorming and outlining the next mystery book.

I’m excited about this one because the general concept is something that’s been in my head for a couple of decades, with different characters in the lead. I keep “auditioning” characters for this story, and I’ve never had a good place for it until now. And now I have the perfect place for it.

I realized, though, when I started thinking about the outline for this book that the story concept I’ve had all this time was pretty thin. It gives me a setting and a very basic situation. I still have to come up with the actual crime and how it’s going to be solved, and whatever else they’ll discover along the way. That’s going to take some serious pen-and-paper work, maybe some pacing and talking to myself. Which, I guess, counts as exercise, while I’m at it.

So, that’s most of my day set. It’ll feel like an early start to the weekend.

writing life

Business vs. Writing

Because I love optimizing things, I’ve been thinking more about ways to get better work-life balance, and one thing I realized is that what tires my brain and burns me out isn’t the writing part. It’s the business side of things and more analytical stuff, things like editing, marketing, bookkeeping, publishing, etc. That also includes non-fiction writing, where there’s interviewing, chasing down interview subjects, writing, editing, invoicing, etc. Making stuff up is the fun part of my work.

But the business side of things has to be done if I want to make a living at the fun stuff. I have to do all the things it takes to get a book published in order for it to be able to make any money, and I need to do marketing if I want to sell books. The non-fiction writing is helping supplement my income. I’d love to be able to stop it entirely, but right now the book sales aren’t there and I’m grateful to have this opportunity.

The problem for me lately has been that I’ve been in pure business mode for the past month or so. I’ve been editing, proofreading, dealing with covers, doing a lot of little marketing tasks and doing a lot of freelance non-fiction writing. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to just make things up. No wonder I’m tired!

I think I may start a routine of Fiction Fridays. All the business stuff will happen early in the week, and Fridays will be devoted to making stuff up. This will be less of an issue when I’m actually writing a book, but will be a good thing to do when I’m in the middle of Business Mode. That’ll remind me of why I’m doing all the business stuff. I can’t do it today because I have an article due, but I should be able to wrap that up quickly (it’s written, so I just need to polish it up a bit and edit it) and then go to some more fun work.

A few years ago, I had Getting Stuff Done Wednesdays, so that I spent two days doing intense writing and nothing else, then did all the other stuff on Wednesdays, including errands. It was also choir night, so it was a short day, anyway. Then two more days of intense writing without anything else to worry about. That fell by the wayside when I had too much stuff to get done in one day, and I found that I dreaded Wednesdays and didn’t get any writing momentum when I broke off midway during the week. What I may do is designate a Getting Stuff Done hour daily for all the little tasks. Bigger tasks like proofreading and editing will have to be scheduled separately.

I probably won’t be able to get back to actual writing of fiction until next month, so I’ll have a few weeks to play with this concept and see how it works. Meanwhile, I’m doing better about shutting off the work-related activity earlier in the evening and doing something else for fun, and I think it’s giving me a bit more mental energy. July’s going to be a challenge because I’m doing an online conference that runs on weekends. A lot of the sessions are recorded, so I can watch them whenever, but there will be roundtable discussions and Q&A sessions on the weekends. I may have to work more relaxation into weekdays so I don’t overdo it.

And lest anyone worry, I’m not in any kind of real burnout or other emotional trouble. This is mostly me noticing that I’m starting to run out of steam, recognizing some patterns, and doing preventative maintenance to avoid trouble. It’s like putting on a coat when you notice it’s getting cold, long before you’re in danger of hypothermia.

writing life

Work-Life Balance

I hit a wall late last week when I was trying to read information I was given to turn into an article and the words just blurred together. I decided that what I needed was some rest, so I gave myself an extra long weekend to not do any work. And it was amazing the difference it made. I slept better and ended up feeling refreshed.

That reminded me of how important work-life balance is. It gets tricky when your work is something you once did for fun, as a hobby. Everything turns into work. You’re always thinking in terms of what would work in a book. When you read or watch something, you find yourself analyzing the story. I tend to spend my evenings doing research reading or reading how-to books.

But the brain needs a break from work, even when your work is fun, and taking a few evenings to not read books about writing did me a lot of good. I don’t know that I’m going to stop spending my evenings on work-related stuff all the time because I actually enjoy that. There’s a classical music radio show on in the early evenings that I like to listen to, and it’s nice to have that show on while I read reference books for a book I’m planning or read information about writing or publishing. Then they play symphony concerts after that, and if the program is something I like, I keep working. I think I need to shut off the work earlier so that I don’t go to bed with my brain spinning about books and plots. I need some transitional leisure activities to allow me to relax a bit more. “Leisure” isn’t the same as goofing off during the workday. That’s usually just procrastination, doing things I don’t really enjoy and feeling guilty about it. Real leisure is choosing to do something for fun, with no sense that I should be doing something else. Oddly, not watching as much TV meant I stopped doing much leisure. When I’m listening to the radio, I end up doing writing-related work, like the reference reading and brainstorming. Not that I should go back to watching a lot of TV, but I need to find more things I can do in the evening that aren’t work or TV. I’ve been trying this week to shut off the work earlier and then read for fun, but even reading may feel like work because it’s still story, which hits the same parts of the brain as my work. I guess I need to find new hobbies.

I also think I’ll make more of an effort to take defined breaks every so often. One nice thing about working for myself at home is that I can weave life around work, and vice versa, but that often means that I never entirely stop working. I may take a break during the day to go grocery shopping or do chores, but that also means I may spend evenings and weekends at least thinking about books. Taking time to “refill the well” and recharge is also important. I need to be better about cultivating activities that aren’t about work, which has been harder while stuck at home this past year. Generally, when I go out, that’s a clean break from work. No going out means fewer breaks in routine.

I was able to get back to one of my activities last weekend. My church had an outdoor service at an amphitheater on the shore of a nearby lake Sunday morning, and since we were outdoors, the choir actually got to sing. We had a rehearsal Saturday, then the service and a short concert Sunday morning, after which I did some walking around the lake. We had unusually cool weather for this time of year, so being outdoors was nice.

I’m going to aim for another long weekend next month, with no thinking about work or work-related activity and some time spent doing other activities that get me out of my head.

writing life, My Books

Finding my Niche

As I mentioned in the last post, I’m trying to deal with the business aspects of publishing so I can keep actually making a living at this. As part of that, I’ve been trying to level up on the business side of things, doing a lot of reading, attending workshops, etc. I went to a webinar this week that offered some good advice, but that also made me worry that I may not be suited to independent publishing.

One of the main pieces of advice was to find your niche and stick with it. Being consistent and delivering something tried and true is the best way to build, sustain, and grow a readership. A niche is a specific kind of book within a subgenre, such as, say, romantic comedy set in small towns with heroes who are ex-military. When you do this, you can build a steady readership who knows what they’re going to get when they read one of your books, and when they’re in the mood for the sort of thing you write, you’re the author they’ll turn to. Each book you write will have a built-in customer base.

I know this works because I know people who’ve been wildly successful doing this. But just thinking about everything I write being in the same niche gives me a panic attack. I don’t even know what my niche would be. If we go with what I’ve been most successful with, it would be light humorous contemporary fantasy with a hint of romance set in New York with adorkable wizards. You could fit most of what I’ve published so far into that niche. Take away the “New York” part and you could maybe even squeeze the mysteries in there. The YA books would be the outliers, though Rebel Mechanics fits if you remove “contemporary,” since it’s got New York and an adorkable wizard.

But I don’t really have any new ideas in that contemporary fantasy niche now. I’ve got plots for two more mysteries beyond what I’ve written. I sort of have an idea for another Fairy Tale book outlined, but am not really driven yet to write it. Right now, I’m not even reading contemporary-set books, fantasy or otherwise. I’ve tried to pick up a couple but have put them aside after a chapter because I just can’t get into that mindset. I don’t know if it’s everything going on in the world and wanting to escape right now or if it’s something else. I just don’t want to read about the “real” world in anything that looks like today, even if one of the characters is an adorkable wizard.

If I went by what I’m reading now and where my story ideas are, it would be “traditional” fantasy — secondary world, quasi-European (I’ve read some outside those lines, but I don’t know that I could write it), and set in a somewhat medieval-like past. That’s what I’m gravitating toward as a reader right now. I want castles and sailing ships and horses and forests, quests and swashbuckling. I have ideas for a couple of different series along those lines. Just about any new idea I come up with is in that realm. But I’ve never published anything like that. It would be entirely new, and the only thing in common with my previous books would be the adorkable wizards (they keep finding their way into my books), the snarky heroines, and probably the overall vibe. The settings would be entirely different from my other books, but I suspect it will still feel like me.

I may fall in love with something else a year from now, though, and want to write that. The thought of writing the same kind of book over and over again makes me queasy.

And not just the same kind of book, but the same series. That’s the other advice. And, again, I know it works. But I could only manage nine books in a series I loved before I started getting tired of it, and I even wrote a couple of other series in the meantime. The thought of writing 20 or more books in the same series, as some authors have, makes me twitchy. Now, most of these aren’t the kind of series where you have the same main characters and follow the same story arc. They’re more along the lines of the best friend from book 1 being the heroine of book 2, where heroine 1 is still a secondary character and heroine 3 is introduced. Or it’s a family, where each of the brothers gets his own book. There’s some variety there when you aren’t having to mine the same people for drama over and over again.

One of the fantasy ideas I have works kind of like that. I’m setting up a world where a lot of things can happen. There’s a throughline, but the main characters in each book will be different and there may be subseries within the series about different places in that world. I think I could have fun with that, though I don’t know if I could get to 20 books.

Really, I think I’m best suited for traditional publishing, where I don’t have to make the business decisions and where just being more or less within the same genre is good. They don’t want really massive series (unless they’re hugely successful, and then they’ll want to milk it as long as possible). Unfortunately, the kind of thing I like to write isn’t what publishers want. I keep coming up with ideas, and my agent tells me she can’t sell that. They’re backlogged thanks to the pandemic and the way that messed with publishing schedules and releases. My experiences there haven’t been all that great. I’ve never really felt like I’ve been in a situation where the people I was dealing with believed in me and backed me. I’ve never had a publisher let a series finish before they dropped me. Maybe I haven’t found the right editor with the right idea at the right time. Which means I want to keep doing this instead of getting a real job, I’ll need to suck it up and figure out a way to make it work. I think that fantasy series idea might work for me. At the very least, I could use it to establish myself in that field, and then if it does well, a traditional publisher might be interested in me. So far, what I’ve heard from publishers is that they want something like Enchanted, Inc. They don’t want to buy the Enchanted, Inc. series, but they don’t want anything that’s too different. That means I need to make my own name in something different for them to consider it.

writing life

Multitasking

I’m working on at least three fiction projects right now, all in different phases, and while I might have thought that would leave me scattered, it’s actually working pretty well. When I get tired of one, I can take a little time to play with another, and I’m even finding synergies between them.

I’m revising one project, which takes a lot of concentration. It’s nice to have something useful to do when I need to take a break because I’ve realized my eyes are sliding over words rather than really taking them in.

I’m developing another project, doing some in-depth character work and worldbuilding. This is that book that I thought would be quick and easy earlier this year when I decided to do something with a thirty-year-old story idea. It wasn’t so quick and easy, and now that I’m doing a deep dive into developing the characters and world, I’m seeing why it didn’t work so well. Just because the characters and world had been in my head for a long time, it didn’t mean they were actually developed. The world was a rather generic fantasy world, and it’s fun seeing it flesh out as I do the development work, like it’s going from a black-and-white outline to a full painting. I think the next time I take a stab at this story, it will go very differently, and I’m getting excited about the potential for this book. Some of the characterization exercises are giving me ideas for things I can do to deepen the book I’m revising.

Then there’s another project I’m researching. I only have the vaguest big-picture idea of what this series is going to end up being and am doing a lot of reading to help me figure out that world and how it works. Some of the things I’m reading are giving me ideas for building the world in that other project.

Meanwhile, I have two different non-fiction freelance projects in the works. And I should be doing more business and marketing work. Keeping busy is good during the summer because it makes the time pass more quickly. I may survive until late September, when it gets bearable again.

writing life

Productivity

I’ve been ridiculously productive this week. I’ve passed the halfway point on Lucky Lexie 4 and have done a ton of work developing another project. I’ve done a lot of things that have probably helped with productivity. Now I’ll need to figure out which ones of them have been the cause — or possibly all of them.

I’m still working in my office, and I do think it helps because I’m in “work” mode when I’m in here and seem to waste less time. I do still take the laptop downstairs in the evenings and do some work, but it’s more “fun” work, not actual writing.

I also made up a new rule. We’ve been having a rainy spell, with it raining at least a little bit every day, so I declared that when it’s raining, I get to have a change of pace, stop working on the current manuscript, and spend time developing another project. That feels like play, and it means my “break” time is still productive work time. I did a lot of work on the main characters this week. Next I’m going to work on figuring out my villains. I may have to figure out a different trigger for these breaks once the rainy spell ends. It needs to be something that can happen at any time during the day and that won’t likely last much longer than an hour or so. I’ve thought about designating certain composers for breaks since I keep the classical radio station on all day. Depending on the work, that can go from five minutes to half an hour. They publish a playlist that lets me know ahead of time when a work is coming up, so doesn’t have that “oh, hey, it’s raining, break!” moment of surprise, but it’s still something I don’t control, so it might work. Or I could attempt to be an adult with self-control and allow myself to take breaks to work on something else for a little while instead of scrolling Twitter, but not abuse it and take breaks when I feel stuck instead of working through the problem.

The other thing I did was make an alteration in my routine. It sometimes takes me forever to actually get to my desk and start working in the morning. I dawdle over my morning tea as I read the newspaper, do some journal writing, and then get sidetracked. I wasn’t sure if I was avoiding work or just lingering over my tea. My normal routine is to finish my tea, then go brush my teeth, get dressed for the day, and then go to work. This week, I got dressed when I got up, then after breakfast if I was still drinking my tea, I took the tea to my desk and worked until I finished my tea, and then went and brushed my teeth and tidied the bedroom and bathroom before going back to work. I ended up getting to my desk about half an hour earlier than usual and got a head start on my work. It seems I wasn’t putting off getting to work. I just was reluctant to stop sipping my tea. This may not apply on the days when it’s nice enough to have my tea on the patio and get some outdoor time, but I can do some planning and outlining out there.

Since I’m making good progress on the book, I don’t think I’m going to take the Memorial Day holiday. I need to keep moving forward. First, though, I’m going to have to figure out how the book is actually going to end. I had something in mind, but now that I’m halfway through the book, I’m less keen on it and may need to rethink it, and I need to come up with the specifics. I sort of know what’s going to happen, but I’m not exactly sure how it will happen.

writing life

Back to the Office

For the past week or so, I’ve been doing something unusual for me: I’ve been working in my office. I have a rather nice office space in my house. It’s the upstairs bedroom, which is kind of like a writer’s garret. It’s right under the sloping roof, so it has a high, sloping ceiling and a skylight. The window in the room is a sliding glass door that leads to a balcony. There’s plenty of natural light and I seldom have to turn on a lamp during daylight hours. When I first moved in to this house, this room was my bedroom and the office was in the downstairs bedroom. The idea was that I could come home from work and run in and out of my office to cook dinner, do laundry, etc., and get some writing done, and then at the end of the day I could go up to my bedroom and be away from it all.

Then I started working from home and that arrangement no longer made sense. The upstairs room gets pretty bright and stays light, thanks to that skylight, while the downstairs room has one small window in a corner. It’s not really a room you want to work in all day. So, I switched the rooms. I could go upstairs to work, then my living space would be all downstairs.

That worked for a few years, and then I started migrating around the house. My internet connection was at my desk, and I’d disconnect and sit elsewhere to write. Then I got wi-fi, and I started migrating for everything. I even got a little laptop desk to put in front of the sofa so I could use the computer more easily there. I wrote my last four or five books sitting mostly on my bed (yes, in the room that I found too unpleasant to work in when it was the office). Meanwhile, because the office was upstairs and out of the way, it became more of a storage space. If I needed to quickly clean the downstairs, I’d just toss things in the office and shut the door.

I started working to reclaim the office last year, and the area around my desk is getting close to the way I want it to be, so I gave working there a shot last week. This room can get warm in hot weather and the ceiling fan hasn’t been working, so I’d bought a small fan. Much to my surprise, when I turned on the ceiling fan last week, it worked. I also had to replace the pillow I use to adapt my desk chair to me. It seems to be designed for a much larger person, and the pillow I’d been using disintegrated. Now the place is more or less comfortable.

I still have work to do in the office to make it ideal, but I’m liking working in here. I feel more like I’m going to work in the morning when I go to a dedicated room than when I sit on my bed or the sofa, and I feel like I’m ending work at the end of the day. I do take the laptop to the living room because there are some things I like to read while I’m watching the news in the evening, and that’s where I do my Norwegian lessons, but that feels different from having worked there all day.

I may eventually need different office furniture, since what I have was bought for when I was telecommuting and had both a desktop computer and my work laptop. The desk may be more than I need now and takes up a lot of space, and I need a chair that fits me better. Redecorating isn’t a huge priority yet, though. I need to work in the office for more than a week to get a better sense of it, and I need to finish purging, organizing, and cleaning. I’m adding some plants and maybe some other decor to make it more “me,” but anything major will have to wait.

In the meantime, we’ll see if it makes me more productive to have an actual “work” space.

writing life

Avoiding Intensity

Apologies for skipping the Friday post. I found out Thursday evening that I had an appointment for my COVID vaccine Friday morning, so I spent Friday morning driving across the metro area, waiting in traffic, and then getting the shot before driving in heavy traffic back across the metro area and then promptly collapsing. The drive was far worse than the shot itself. I ended up just having some soreness on my arm for a couple of days. It didn’t occur to me until later that I’d totally forgotten to post a blog.

One issue I’ve run into in the past year or so is that I’ve become very conflict-averse. I always have been, to some extent. I’m the weirdo who doesn’t necessarily want an emotionally intense reading or viewing experience. I worry far too much about the characters and get way too invested for me to be able to cope when really bad things happen to them. When I had my “hide behind the sofa” moments as a kid, it wasn’t generally because I was scared, but rather because things were so intense I couldn’t bear it. I still will occasionally flip ahead in a book if things are getting to be too much so I can see how it works out, and then I can go back and read the intense part without so much worry.

It’s not the big action scenes that are the problem. It’s more the emotional low points, what they call in romance writing “the black moment,” when it seems absolutely impossible for things to work out. A lot of the time, that may even come before the big action scene in the superhero movies, when all seems lost, but then they rally and fight back. The things that really get me include injustice—when the main character is framed or falsely accused, and especially if the system is corrupt, so he has nowhere to turn for help—or betrayal—when the people the hero should be able to count on turn on him. Anything that feels unfair will get to me. Physical jeopardy may bother me, but it’s the emotional jeopardy I find hardest to deal with.

But it got even worse in the past year because there was so much stress in real life that fictional stress was more than I could take. I watched a lot of documentaries because there’s not a lot of suspense there if you know the subject, and it’s less immediate. I rewatched and reread a lot of things because I’d already know a book was “safe,” and knowing how it came out made it easier to get through the somewhat suspenseful parts that are even in “safe” things (since you don’t get fiction without some conflict). I catch myself getting distracted when things I’m watching get intense. That’s when I check e-mail, Twitter, or the movie’s IMDB page.

Being conflict-averse makes writing a bit of a challenge. While I’m sure there are other readers like me who might be okay with low-stress reads, generally the books that stick in readers’ minds are those that make them feel something. There needs to be some intensity. I had to rewrite Case of the Curious Crystals a few times because I was in the middle of that book when the pandemic hit and I guess I just shut down. The first draft read like a user manual. I went back in and added emotions. Then I realized that nothing was at stake, so that took another rewrite.

I caught myself doing the same thing this week with the book I’m currently working on. There’s something that one character has been worried about the other character learning about him. He’s held back on telling her, hoping he can ease into it gently, and he’s not sure how she’ll respond. His hand gets forced, and he has to reveal this information in order to save them. And the way I wrote it going, she’s curious and asks questions, but she’s generally pretty cool about it. In the middle of the night last night it struck me that this was probably pretty anticlimactic. I don’t think I want it to be a case of him worrying too much and it working out fine. Eventually it will work out okay, but there needs to be a bit more friction at first. So, I’m going to remind myself that I know how it works out, so it’s okay for there to be some tension now, and I’ll rewrite it to make it more intense.

It probably won’t be gut-wrenching and won’t leave readers sobbing. I don’t write that kind of book. But I do want readers to worry enough about whether it might work out that they’re compelled to keep turning pages, and I want them to feel a bit bad for the characters.

writing life

The State of the Shanna 2021

Happy New Year!

I love the chance to reset and make a fresh start on a new year, starting with a blank calendar and all my usual forms and charts being clean and ready to be filled in as I make progress. I’ve made a business plan for the first half of the year. What happens after that will depend on how the first half of the year goes. In my business, it’s hard to plan too far in advance because I don’t know how long it will take me to do the things I planned.

I figure this is a good time for a general “how things work here” post. I’m going to stick with the Wednesday and Friday blogging schedule. That gives me time to write posts without interfering with my best writing time. Any news that falls between blogging slots will be in the “news” box on the front page of my web site and/or I’ll announce it on social media.

You can find me on social media on Twitter, where I talk about all kinds of things, not just my books, and on Facebook. There’s a page that focuses on my books and you can also discuss with fellow fans. My personal profile is fairly public. I only accept friend requests from people I actually know and have interacted with, but most of my posts are public, so you can follow me without being a “friend.” That’s where I talk about life and interact with friends and family. I haven’t been as active on Facebook lately because I loathe their new design and can’t bear to look at it. I cross-post my blog to Goodreads, but I don’t accept Goodreads friend requests (there have been some issues with people not being allowed to post Amazon reviews because Amazon thinks them being social media friends with authors means they’re friends, so their reviews don’t count). About all I do on Goodreads right now is cross-post the blog and occasionally respond to comments when that’s warranted. I have an Instagram account, but I don’t do much with it now because I only really use my phone when I leave the house, so I don’t think about Instagram when I’m at home, and I’m at home all the time now.

I have a newsletter that goes out once a month with book news and some behind the scenes info about my books, and if you’re signed up for that list, you also get alerts when there’s a new book. I’ve been trying to let newsletter subscribers know about stuff earlier than I put it out in other places. Today I’ll be sending out a newsletter with the cover of the next Lucky Lexie book and the release date. There are also short stories available exclusively to newsletter subscribers, with an Enchanted, Inc. aftermath story from Owen’s perspective and a backstory episode in the Lucky Lexie universe, with Jean on the case when the carnival gets stuck in town. You can sign up for the newsletter here.

The plan for the year is to do a few more mysteries, with one coming out in January, one sometime in the spring, one in the summer, and one in the fall, but that depends on how the writing goes. I also plan to do a print (e-book and paperback) edition of the book that was an Audible exclusive last year. I still haven’t heard whether they want me to write more books in that series, so I guess that would depend on whether the e-book and paperback sell well enough to make it worthwhile for me to keep doing (and I’ll have to check my contract to see if I’m allowed without sending Audible a proposal to reject first). I’m developing a new fantasy series, but I haven’t yet decided how I’m going to approach it, whether I’ll release as I write, write several and release them around the same time (a month or so apart), or possibly even submit to publishers. I won’t have a good sense of that until I get something written.

So, that’s the State of the Shanna for 2021. A couple of years ago, I went through a bit of a career crisis in which I seriously considered quitting and decided I liked writing too much and hated the idea of a regular job too much. Now the odds of even being able to get a regular job are pretty slim and I don’t really want to have to work outside my home, but unless I can make the writing pay off a bit better, I’m going to have to figure something out. This is my year to see if I can build a little more momentum and try some new promo methods to see if I can build an audience.

writing life

2020 Hindsight

One last post for the year, looking back on a year that didn’t quite go the way anyone hoped or planned.

At this time last year, I was looking up activities and groups, making plans to get out there and do the things I enjoy doing but never seem to get around to doing and to meet other people who do those things. I got a good start to the year by going on a group hike at a state park on New Year’s Day, then I went to a Sisters in Crime meeting in February as part of my effort to find a good writing support group.

And then a couple of weeks later, everything came to a screeching halt. There would be no more meetings or group activities.

I’m pretty much built for lockdowns. In some respects, it took some pressure off me. There were no obligatory gatherings that I went to reluctantly, no rehearsals or meetings. I sometimes missed socializing, and I wished I could do more of the kind of socializing I’d prefer to do (something else I was planning to make more of an effort for), but for the most part, holing up inside my house is my comfort zone.

I think I used the time pretty well. I took a few online courses, attended a lot of online lectures, and started learning Norwegian (in case we can ever travel again and I can take my dream trip). I wrote two books start to finish, revised another and did a final round of editing on another. I released three new print books and two audio books. I also did a lot of the work toward developing a new book that I plan to write next year.

Unfortunately, all those new releases didn’t add up to much, financially. People seem to like my new series, but not very many people are buying it. I’m hoping that with each release the word will spread and more people will find it, and I’m going to try some new promo things around the release of book 3. If it doesn’t catch on, I may have to rethink that series. Right now, I’m not making minimum wage with it. But I figured it was worth a shot, and I learned a lot about writing productivity from it. I broke my personal record for time spent on writing activities this year.

Oh, and I had my first short story sale, took on a new volunteer role, and got a new freelance client. I guess it was a busy year, considering I seldom left the house.

Meanwhile, I also broke my personal record for number of books read this year. I just about gave up TV, since there wasn’t much on, and I spent that time reading instead. By the end of the year, I’ll have read at least 112 books, depending on how much I read in the next couple of days. It’s cold and rainy, so I’m planning a big reading binge.

I’m pretty much at the bottom of the vaccine priority list, since I can safely isolate and am not in the really high-risk groups (I just have a lot of conditions that are considered possible moderate risk), so I don’t see things changing too much for the first half of next year. I’ll be releasing book 3 in the mystery series next month. I’ll probably do an e-book/print version of that Audible exclusive book. I want to get started on that fantasy series I’ve been developing.

With that in mind, my main plan for January is to do a deep dive into “traditional” fantasy. That was what I first fell in love with that made me want to be a writer and what my first stabs at writing were in, though I haven’t published anything like that. I plan to reread The Lord of the Rings for the first time since I was in college and try to figure out what it was that so enthralled me when I first read it in sixth grade. Then I’ll branch out to some of the newer stuff. I may enhance the experience with appropriate food and drink. At the same time, I’ll be digging into the more specific worldbuilding and plotting for my series.

I don’t think I’m going to make real resolutions this year. I just want to build on what I started this year, working on good habits and consistency. And I hope I get a bit more payoff from the previous work.

Happy New Year, and see you in 2021!