Turning Plans into Action: (Lots of) Round 3 Goals

Ursula Le Guin Fiction Quote

It’s time for Round 3 of A Round of Words in 80 Days–the writing challenge that knows you have a life!

If Round 2 was about cupping an ear and listening, about learning and intensive study, about thought and preparation, then Round 3 is the action stage.

In Round 2 of A Round of Words in 80 Days, the writing challenge that knows you have a life, I began my studies in aromatherapy, took a workshop on deep POV, and mostly researched, prepared, and planned.

Of course, the best laid plans go oft awry, which is why I try to remain flexible, even as I put plans into action.

My list for this round is extensive. I have two projects that are about 90 percent completed but need some polishing and deepening. Those need to be finished and sent out on submission, so they are top priorities. I have several other projects that are also calling to me, but I’m more flexible on those because they’re in the early stages.

I definitely want to get back into blogging and actively visiting others’ blogs. I’ve been having some mysterious health woes that are now affecting my hands, so I’m really hoping the weird sensations in my hands don’t interfere with this goal. Seriously ROWers—I miss you!

I also recognize that my health needs attention, and I have been chipping away at bad habits—such as a sweet tooth and tendency to be lazy when it comes to cooking from scratch. Health is foundational, so I will be easing into some yoga and stretching this round while moving away from sugary or processed foods toward a home-cooked, natural diet.

And, as hubby and I debate whether to stay in our cozy townhome and for how long, we’re fixing it up, though whether for ourselves or new occupants, we’re not yet sure. In any event, worn-out carpets are being torn out and replaced with durable vinyl plank flooring, warped countertops and leaky faucets shall be replaced with shinier new upgrades, and clutter is slowly falling away, room by room.

The plan is to write daily, Monday through Friday, from 4 to 5 p.m. No interruptions, no excuses. Of course, I want to write more than that, but I’m hoping starting with this small, manageable goal will give me momentum.

As Ursula K. Le Guin said, “The use of imaginative fiction is to deepen your understanding of your world, and your fellow men, and your own feelings, and your destiny.”

As I delve deeper into my stories, I recognize that what has kept me from taking my stories to soaring heights and gut-wrenching depths is this deepening of character emotion. I’m shying away from the depths of despair, the terror of seeing your worst nightmare brought to life, the fear of repeating the past, the intense vulnerability of fledgling love.

And so, armed with new knowledge, I go forward. This round is all about crafting the stories that I so intensely want to tell—and moving forward on my storyteller’s path.

All that said, here are my goals for this round. They are extensive, but my plan is to only report on active goals.

WRITING

  • Finish a draft of Spellfire’s Kiss; query.
  • Finish and resubmit Oak-Bound.
  • POTENTIAL WRITING GOALS: first draft of Wild Tarot; first draft of Silver’s Stray, a paranormal cozy mystery; fourth draft of Rose Petals and Dragon Scales; first draft of a nonfiction project.

BLOGGING/SOCIAL MEDIA

  • Respond to blog comments and return visits to commenters’ blogs.
  • Regularly post ROW80 check-ins and keep up with commenting on other ROWers blogs.
  • Make and post one video per month.

HEALTH

  • Do yoga or gentle stretching daily.
  • Eat more fruits, veggies, whole grains, and healthy whole foods and fewer processed foods. Also work on seriously minimizing the amount of sugar in my diet.
  • Try making my own bread, granola, etc.
  • Continue making my own cleaning and bath products.
  • Finish aromatherapy courses on Udemy.

HEARTH & HOME

  • Replace worn-out carpet in living/dining rooms with new flooring.
  • Remodel upstairs bathroom.
  • New kitchen countertops and sink.
  • Painting—neutral colors—where needed.
  • Hang all remaining artwork.
  • Clean attic.
  • Organize office closet.
  • Clean out storage shed.
  • Decluttering—items to thrift store.

*exhales deeply*

Wow! I have a busy few months ahead of me. What about you? As we sprint through summer, iced tea with lemon in hand, our skin sun-kissed (for those of us who dwell in the northern hemisphere), what plans do you have?

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Round 4: Intentions

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Triberg waterfall, in the Black Forest region of Germany. Photo by my husband, Ryan Spoon, August 2017.

Since my return from my trip to Germany in August, I’ve entered a period of quiet introspection. What direction do I want to go in my life? Am I on an authentic path that will allow me to drink from the wellspring of creativity? How do I define success, and how have I internalized society’s definition of success?

My head spinning with such questions, the universe brought Tami Lynn Kent’s book Wild Creative into my life. I didn’t devour the book. I read it intently, studying some passages over and over and taking my time with the prescribed exercises. A few of my favorite quotes from Wild Creative:

“Most of our current work and life structures have been devised to emphasize production and how much we can accomplish rather than the nurturing of the soul. This routinely takes us away from our natural inclinations and the flow of our energy field.”

“Taking ownership of one’s creative life force is a conscious act to change the focus from exclusively monetary values to modes that value life.”

“Though we may tend to take note of visibly productive years where we have ‘something to show’ for our work, the less visible years are equally important and essential to the overall creative journey.”

Too often as writers, we’re obsessed with word counts. There’s the #1k1hr hashtag. There’s NaNoWriMo, in which we’re given the daunting task of writing 50,000 words in a month. There’s the infamous 1-millionth word we pen. And there are countless prescriptions out there for how many words we should write in a day.

Naturally, wanting to “succeed,” I followed such models, only to find myself burnt out. The wellspring of creativity was dry. I would write in short bursts when inspiration struck, or force myself through a revision, only to grow burnt out and exhausted once more.

So 2017 will not shape up to be a year of epic word counts. Instead, I believe, it is a year of introspection, of peering deep inside myself and trying to ascertain the life I truly want.

That life is authentic. It is imperfect. It is one of individually defined success. It is sometimes messy, often beautiful, filled with countless moments of joy. Watching Leo chew on sticks in the yard while I sip my coffee and read a book. Enjoying the color of the rose bushes as they bloom. Cooking a simple meal. Making my own home products—so far this year, I’ve discovered recipes for laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, and lavender goat’s milk soap. Owning less and living more. Travel as a form of discovering self and connecting with the world around me. And, of course, creating art, stories that, if I do my job, will enchant and inspire.

My latest work in progress, Oak-Bound, is one that came to me five years ago. I wasn’t ready to write it then, and it came out flat and forced. I tried again a year ago. Same result. Back in July, I stopped and I listened. Like a tree, I stretched my roots deep into the loamy soil of inspiration, and I soaked up what I found.

I am finally ready to give form to this story, a novella-length work about loss, grief, trauma, and healing, and the human relation with the divine and nature. I want to tell stories that spring from my heart, stories that are vibrant and authentic, and Cassie and Nick’s story feels like one of those stories. I very much hope to share it with you one day.

Thus, I have no “goals” for the last quarter of 2017. Instead, I share with you my intentions for the rest of the year:

  1. Finish a draft of Oak-Bound.
  2. Revise Spellfire’s Kiss, once I receive feedback from my kind and helpful beta reader.
  3. Participate in one or two community events each month.
  4. Meditate or do yoga twice a week.
  5. Continue paring away the excess in our home and making the townhouse our own.

As the Wheel turns toward Samhain and the seasons cycle toward winter, I will continue to dig deep, to listen closely, to spend time in nature, and to move toward authenticity.

What about you? What are your intentions for the rest of 2017? Have you read Wild Creative? Do any of the quotes above resonate with you?

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Sunday ROW80 check-in

There isn’t much to report, so I’ll keep this a short post. Today hubby and I carved a jack-o-lantern. It’s pretty basic, but here it is:

pumpkin 2 fall 2014

I’m trying to slowly increase my weekly word count. I’ve been hovering around 5-6K, and I’d like that to be more like 8-10K. Any advice on how to do this? I’m thinking of adding in another writing sprint each day, maybe in the morning. If I can show up at the page earlier and write first thing, along with my morning coffee, that might get me to about 2K each day. It would also give me a chance to write before all the other things that fill my days start crowding my brain. Thoughts?

ROW80 check-in…

Writing goals:

1.) Work on the first draft of my YA steampunk novel “The Clockwork in the Stars.” Wrote 5,628 words.

2.) Read three books on the craft/business of writing. Continued reading “Writing the Breakout Novel” by Donald Maass.

Social media goals:

1.) Check in on Twitter or Facebook daily. Met for every day except Thursday.

2.) Blog twice a week. Goal met.

3.) Comment on three to five blogs per day, Monday-Thursday. Goal met.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. It’s also a blog hop! Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

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Sunday ROW80 check-in

Well, Round 4 is off to a slow start for me. Lots of appointments and a migraine slowed down my progress this week, but I am excited to have started a new story, my first attempt at a novel-length work in a while—and my first-ever attempt at writing steampunk. It’s a fairy-tale retelling set in a steampunk world, so it’s a fun new challenge for me.

Since I have two new-ish stories to work on, I’ve decided to spend some of the upcoming week less focused on word count and more focused on plotting, world-building, and character exercises. After that, I’m hoping to crank out some more work in the rest of the year. This has been a year of first drafts for me, so I’m hoping to add at least one more to that list before I close the books on 2014.

Before I go, I’d like to leave you with some words of wisdom about the power of imagination from Lewis Carroll:

made at quozio.com
made at quozio.com

Lastly, my ROW80 check-in…

Writing goals:

1.) Finish a first draft of novella/novelette “Haunted Kisses.” Wrote 1,197 words on this project and 1,904 on another, for a total of 3,101 words. The other is my first attempt at writing a steampunk story, so I’m pretty excited. Wish me luck!

2.) Finish a second draft of novelette “Called by Magic.” On hold until I finish goal No. 1.

3.) Do a read-through of “Good Old-Fashioned Magic,” make necessary edits, and send to critique partners. On hold until I finish goal No. 1.

4.) Read three books on the craft/business of writing. No progress on this goal.

Social media goals:

1.) Check in on Twitter or Facebook daily. Met for three of five days. Will have to do better this week!

2.) Blog twice a week. Target met.

3.) Comment on three to five blogs per day, Monday-Thursday. Met for all days except Monday.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. It’s also a blog hop! Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

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Sunday ROW80 check-in

ROW80LogocopyI live in a college town, and one of my favorite times of year is the spring. I love watching people emerge. It’s like the whole town has been hibernating and the warm weather wakes us up, drawing everyone outdoors. Bicyclists and joggers are everywhere; parents are out pushing strollers or walking with their kids; pet-owners venture out to take long walks with their dogs. Students gather on the lawns, leaving trails of red Solo cups in their wake.

This weekend, my husband and I took advantage of the sunshine, playing tennis–and getting a little bit of a sunburn. The upcoming week sounds like a rainy one, lots of good reading and writing weather, but probably not so good for tennis.

ROW80 check-in

1.) Writing:

  • Write a draft of untitled short story: Wrote 4,387 words on this project. This draft is finished at just over 8K!
  • Finish the second draft of the novella I finished in Round 1, Good Old-Fashioned Magic. Going to dig into this project in the upcoming week after reading Cathy Yardley’s “Rock Your Revisions.” In the meantime, I’ll be doing some research to fill in a few setting/world-building details.

2.) Read 4 books on the craft/business of writing. Continued reading Stephen King’s “On Writing,” book 2 of 4.

3.) Social media:

  • Check in on Twitter daily. Target mostly met.
  • Comment on 3-5 blogs per day, Monday-Thursday. Target met.
  • Blog 2 times per week. Target met.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. It’s also a blog hop!

Was the weather nice where you live? How did you spend your weekend? How are your writing goals coming along?

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Slow progress and ROW80 check-in

Writing seemed to be moving slowly this week, and I’m not sure why. I only revised two chapters, and only one of those involved major additions. The other chapter was just line editing to clean it up for critique. Since I’m one of those people whose self-worth is tied up in how productive I am (if I’m being honest), I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t get more done. But last week is over and there’s always the upcoming week to push myself harder.

Revising is always more difficult for me than writing a first draft. I’m not sure I’ve cracked the secret yet, but hopefully I will this year.

The heart of the problem is this: When I envisioned myself writing full time, I imagined sitting at the keyboard eight hours per day, regularly hammering out thousands of words on a daily basis. A few months in, I’m still trying to find my stride. In her most recent book, “Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World,” Kristen Lamb notes that the pace for a professional writer is somewhere around 2K to 5K per day. I’m still building up my endurance to reach those levels, but I know I need to get there. More than that, I know I can get there.

original image by Myndi Shafer, accessed at WANA Commons
original image by Myndi Shafer, accessed at WANA Commons.

What about you? What do you consider to be a good daily goal for a writer?

ROW80 check-in

ROW80Logocopy1.) Writing:

  • Work on revising Made of Shadows, a paranormal romance novel. No progress on this story this week. To be honest, I’m not sure I’m quite ready to revise this manuscript yet, so I might revise this goal and select a different project to work on. This one might need to sit on the shelf a little while longer.
  • Finish the second draft of the novella I finished in Round 1, Good, Old-Fashioned Magic. Revised chapters 4 and 5, sent to critique partners.

2.) Read 4 books on the craft/business of writing.

  • Finished “Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World” by Kristen Lamb. Highly recommend it.

3.) Social media:

  • Check in on Twitter daily. Every day except Friday.
  • Comment on 3-5 blogs per day, Monday-Thursday. Target met.
  • Blog 3 times a week. 2 out 3. (I didn’t blog on Friday.)

A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80) is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. It’s also a blog hop!

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Down payment on a dream & Round 2 ROW80 goals

ROW80Logocopy2014 is shaping up to be a very goal-driven year for my husband and me. Last year, I left my day job in publications to write full-time, and I’m more determined than ever to be the best writer I can be and get my stories onto the page and then, one day, out into the world.

We’re also saving for our dreams—to buy a home, to visit a place we’ve always dreamt of seeing, and to be able to retire one day. Writing full-time meant sacrificing my former steady paycheck, but it’s an investment in the life I hope to build. Thankfully, my husband fully supports my efforts, for which I’m forever grateful. Storytelling is a calling, and one I couldn’t put on hold any longer.

So, to save up for a home, we’ve made sacrifices. We went from being a two-car family to only having one car, saving on maintenance, gas, insurance, and repairs. We try to stretch our grocery budget as far as we can, and we’re downsizing to a smaller apartment when our lease is up this summer. We’re striving to live as simply and as frugally as possible. We’re making progress, but I’m also trying to learn some patience. Whether it’s making progress in our writing careers or saving up a large sum, these things don’t happen overnight.

Finally, here are my goals for the second round of ROW80:

1.) Writing:

  • Work on revising Made of Shadows, a paranormal romance novel. I set this story aside for a while so I could get some distance, but I think I’m ready to return to it with a fresh perspective.
  • Finish the second draft of the novella I finished in Round 1, Good, Old-Fashioned Magic.

2.) Read 4 books on the craft/business of writing. Currently reading “Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World” by Kristen Lamb.

3.) Social media:

  • Check in on Twitter daily.
  • Comment on 3-5 blogs per day, Monday-Thursday.
  • Blog 3 times a week with new blog schedule—Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.

***

Have you ever saved up for a major goal, such as buying a home or taking a dream vacation? (For us, the short list right now is Hawaii, France, and Ireland.) What were you willing to sacrifice to reach your goal?

What are your goals for the coming months—writing or otherwise?

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The Beginning of the End of Winter—and a final check-in for ROW80 Round 1

ROW80LogocopyWow. I can’t believe that winter is almost over, spring is almost here, and that the first round of A Round of Words in 80 Days (the writing challenge that knows you have a life) is ending tomorrow. I enjoyed it a lot—so much, in fact, that I’ve signed on as a sponsor for the second round.

For those of you who haven’t joined, this writing challenge is a great way to set your own goals and hold yourself accountable via your blog and the #ROW80 hashtag on Twitter.

More than that, though, it’s a supportive community full of wonderful writers. So, before I offer my midweek check-in, I just want to say thanks to all my fellow ROW80ers who have offered their support and shared their goals and accomplishments for this round. 🙂

If you’re interested, be sure to join us for Round 2, which starts April 7!

Final ROW80 Round 1 check-in

1.) Finish a draft of “Good, Old-Fashioned Magic.” Draft finished! Woot! The finished draft is about 34K.

2.) Read to hone my craft, including the following books:

  • Roz Morris’ “Nail Your Novel”: finished
  • Donald Maass’ “The Fire in Fiction”: finished
  • Julia Cameron’s “Walking in This World”: finished
  • Stephen King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” Read “2K to 10K” by Rachel Aaron instead. Loved it!

3.) Blog at least two times a week, on Wednesdays and Sundays: So far, so good this week.

4.) Check in on Twitter daily and on WANA Tribe at least once/week: Target met for Twitter, not yet for WANA Tribe.

5.) Comment on 5-6 blogs per day, Monday-Thursday: On track to meet this goal this week.

6.) Write two articles/posts each week for super-secret project: Not so much. I’m still trying to balance writing fiction and writing for my author blog with work on other unrelated projects. More on that balance next round, I suppose.

This is a blog hop!

What about you? How did the first round of ROW80 go for you? I’d love to know. Are you ready for spring to show up and stick around for more than a day or two?

Looking Forward in 2012 and New ROW80 Goals

“I have desired, like every artist, to create a little world out of the beautiful, pleasant, and significant things of this marred and clumsy world.” –W.B. Yeats

In light of some of the developments in so far in 2012, I’ve decided to revise my goals for the first round of ROW80. After writing my first set, I realized that I had a lot of goals that I hadn’t actually written down. And, since I’ll be attending the Virginia Romance Writers’ For the Love of Writing Conference in May, I also need to set Pierce My Heart aside for a while so I have enough time to polish up Made of Shadows for the conference.

Halfway through February, I’m not sure how I’m doing on my New Year’s resolution. My resolution isn’t so much a personal challenge as it is a necessary lifestyle change. I realize I’ve been letting go of the some elements of life that are core to who I am: my artistic, creative side and my spiritual side. My stories come from a deep well within, and it’s hard to hear them when I listen to the voices that insist I’m better off using my creative energies in other ways. I like public relations writing, but I need to write stories.

Storytelling is a lot like gardening. You plant seeds, nurture them throughout the year, and have faith that your hard work will produce a bountiful harvest. That harvest won’t just provide sustenance for the winter. It will also provide seeds for next spring. I’ve yet to find another line of work that provides me with that fulfillment.

There’s a post-it stuck to my refrigerator bearing this quote from Buddha:

“Your work is to discover your work and then, with all your heart, give yourself to it.”

Whatever our art, whether it’s cooking, gardening, programming, nursing, writing, or painting, each of us has a dharma, a path in life that fits us best. We become the best possible versions of ourselves when we find and live our dharma. What have you, with all of your heart, given yourself to? What bold steps have you taken in life to achieve your dreams?

The worst thing we can do is to do things in life because we think they are what others expect of us or because we want to prove something. I realized late last year that I’d spent too much time trying to prove something to myself. I’d moved away from what really mattered. 2012 is all about giving myself to my life’s work: my stories.

My goal for 2012 is to complete query-ready drafts of my two WIPs, Made of Shadows and Pierce My Heart. I’d also like to draft another story as well, but if by December, I’m querying those two pieces, I’ll be satisfied with that. I’d also like to continue building my author platform.

In light of those developments and revelations, here are my new ROW80 goals:

1.)    Revise three chapters of Made of Shadows per week, so this manuscript is ready to go for the writing conference in May.

2.)    Blog at least twice per week. (I might up this to three times per week later in the year.)

3.)    Stop by Twitter once or twice per day, excluding Sundays.

4.)    Check in on Facebook once a day, except Sundays.

5.)    Read three blog posts per day, except Sundays.

6.)    Complete two bio critiques per week for my fellow Team WANA1011 members.

Well, here it goes. How are everyone else’s writing goals coming along?