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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A Creative Life is a Magical One.

 

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Creative Commons Stock Photos | Dreamstime.com

A clear February night. I gaze up at the stars. I don’t know many constellations, but I can pick out Orion and his belt, bright pinpricks of light staring down at me.

A summer afternoon. I sit out on my patio, curled up in a chair, a notebook in my lap. The dog sits in the grass, perhaps gnawing on a stick. Birds chirp in the trees. I bring out my Tarot deck, whisper questions to the goddess and god, seek answers in the form of the beautifully illustrated cards.

An autumn day. A leaf breaks free of a branch, caught in the wind, spirals down toward the earth. I’m reminded of a childhood superstition–that if you could catch a freshly falling leaf before it touches the ground, your wish would be granted. I still believe. In faeries. In wishes. In the power of belief.

A creative life is a magical one. Stories whisper from the ether. Brushstrokes reveal hidden worlds. Songs draw emotions out of us. Plays and films and TV shows and books transport us to other worlds.

I am learning that one of the most important things we can do with our lives is to embrace and celebrate the magic. We don’t even have to call it magic. Call it any other name. Beauty. Wonder. Joy. Spirit.

Let’s make space for it to speak.

Magic Exists Nora Roberts Quote

TENDING THE CREATIVE FLAME

This week was a hodgepodge of writing tasks. I made some changes to my author website, finished revisions on chapter two of Spellfire’s Kiss, and wrote 1,375 words in Spun Gold. I also got a revise and resubmit for a short story, so I switched gears and dug deeper into the story. I feel like it’s much stronger, but I need to do a read-through and polish it before I send it back to the editor.

TENDING THE HEARTH FLAME

In hearth and home, I’m redecorating our living room with some unique art I found on Etsy. We’re really wanting to revamp this space, so we’re taking it one element at a time until it’s where we want it to be.

TENDING THE SACRED FLAME

I want to find a way to incorporate my magical practice into my everyday life. So far, lots of walks in nature and pausing to enjoy the beauty around me. Sunset walks with Leo have yielded some majestic views, and the cardinals have been flitting merrily through the yet bare trees. I’d like to bring some daily meditations into my life, along with getting back to work on my book of shadows.

What about you? How do you celebrate the magic of the everyday?

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The Importance of Point of View

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Creative Commons Stock Photos | Dreamstime.com

As writers, we think a lot about point of view. Sometimes our genre dictates what POV we use, although even within a genre we can use our own creativity. Yasmine Galenorn writes paranormal romance that’s first person, unusual for the romance genre where third person is often used. YA often calls for first person, although third is also frequently employed.

I’m thinking about it this week for two reasons: one, I just started a new project, and two, I’m doing a read-through of a friend’s manuscript. Both have me thinking about genre expectations when it comes to POV. I started writing my story in first-person, present tense, rarely used in romance, and while I love writing in that POV and tense (I love the immediacy of it), I also realized when I added in the hero’s perspective that it got a little confusing. I might write the first chapter in both third and first and then seek out an opinion on which one works better. Ultimately, it’s about making sure readers don’t feel confused or jarred by point of view shifts, and jumping from POV to POV in a first-person story can be difficult.

We shall see what happens. Have you ever faced this dilemma? How did you decide?

A brief check-in:

This week I wrote 3,356 words in a new story (title pending). It’s paranormal romance—and there’s a dragon. Last week I finished the fifth draft of Spellfire’s Kiss and sent it off to beta readers, and I put the finishing touches on a short story and submitted it to a magazine. I’m also in the process of doing a read-through of a friend’s manuscript, so I’m trying to work my way through that story and give lots of feedback.

I’m currently reading Mugs and Monasteries by Cait O’Sullivan. It’s a short read, although a little confusing at times. I think it’s meant to be a little disorienting, but there were times where I felt like I’d missed something, only to realize that was just part of how the story was unfolding. Still, it’s a delightful journey into Ireland, and the characters drink lots of tea, so I can’t complain!

No major projects on the home front, just the usual tidying and baking and trying new recipes.

What have you been up to this week? I’d love to hear from you!

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Round 3 Goals

ROW80LogocopyRound 3 of A Round of Words in 80 Days is here. For me, this round is going to be all about getting some stories out into the world. My novelette The Beltane Kiss just came back from the proofreader, and I’ve added her corrections and started formatting the document. Yay!

By the end of the year, I plan to have several books out. How many depends on my ability to streamline the revision process and how quickly I can get books to my editor and proofreader and on their schedules. If I am able to proceed with the publishing schedule I want, I might need to have multiple editors and proofreaders so I’m not monopolizing someone else’s time.

I’ve also decided to start submitting my fantasy short stories to magazines. I’ve found a few that pay decently and I would get to keep the rights to my stories, meaning that after a certain amount of time I could self-publish those stories or put them in short story collections or anthologies.

Ideally, here’s what I would like to publish this year:

  • The Beltane Kiss, a novelette
  • The Faerie Key, a novelette
  • Spellfire’s Kiss, a novella
  • A Prince in Patience Point, a novel
  • Five fairy tale retellings (novelette length—about 12-15K each)

That seems like a lot, but most of those stories are pretty close to finished; they just need some editing and polishing. The fairy tale retellings have a way to go, but I’m hoping that in July and August I can finish first drafts of those stories and get them to beta readers and critique partners.

All of that being said, here are my goals for this round. I’m also a sponsor, so I’ll be keeping up with those duties as well.

ROW80 Round 3 Goals

Writing Goals:

  • Write first drafts of five fairy tale retellings, including Winter Faerie, Red in the Woods, and Silver Waters.
  • Write a second draft of Goblins and Grimoires.
  • Revise, polish and format for publication later this year…
    • Polish and format The Beltane Kiss and The Faerie Key for publication in September.
    • Revise A Prince in Patience Point and send to editor.
    • Revise Spellfire’s Kiss and send to editor.
    • Revise Spirits of Embers and submit to magazines.

Reading Goals:

  • Read four books on the craft/business of writing, including…
    • The Anatomy of Story by John Truby
    • How to Craft Short Fiction by Damon Knight
    • On Writing Romance: How to Craft a Novel that Sells by Leigh Michaels
  • Continue with my goal to read 65 books this year.

Life Goals:

  • Exercise three times a week.
  • Paint downstairs, including living room, kitchen/dining room, hallway, and closet.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

What about you? What are your goals for the next few months?

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Sunday Summary

I took the beginning of last week off to do some traveling and visiting with family, which means I didn’t blog at all last week. I only wrote two days, so my numbers weren’t huge, but I’m consistently writing 1,500 words a day when I write, which seems like a good pace to me.

I attended the Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday and had a great time listening to writers talk about the craft. Authors talked about writing strong heroines in paranormal romance and urban fantasy and gave advice on writing happily ever afters in modern romance. The weather was beautiful and the speakers were wonderful. It was a great way to spend a Saturday.

Lastly, a Sunday ROW80 check-in…

Writing goals

1.) Make measurable progress on one of my WIPs. Wrote 3,141 words in “Be True.”

2.) Read three books on the craft/business of writing. 3/3.

3.) Do morning pages in journal Monday-Friday. Met for two of five days.

Social media goals

1.) Check in on Twitter or Facebook daily. Met for Thursday and Friday.

2.) Blog twice a week. Not met. One of two.

3.) Comment on three-five blog posts daily, Monday-Thursday. Goal not 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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WIPpet Wednesday: “No harm ever came from reading a book.”

One of my favorite movie lines is “No harm ever came from reading a book,” from the movie “The Mummy.” Of course, as anyone who’s seen the movie knows, a great deal of bad can come from reading a book, as the characters soon learn. Today’s WIPpet is in the same spirit: an old book, a curious mind, and impending chaos.

Here’s an excerpt from my WIP “Be True.” Abbey Travers is cleaning out her great aunt’s attic when she finds a book of love spells. With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, she toys with the idea of attempting a little harmless magic.

For those who aren’t familiar, WIPpet Wednesday offers writers the chance to share excerpts from their works in progress (WIPs) on their blogs. The only stipulation is that the snippet must relate to the date in some way. Today’s math is simple: four paragraphs for March 4.

Click here to read other WIPpeteers’ work.

From “Be True”

It was insane. But then, it was only for kicks, Abbey told herself. What could a little spell hurt? She’d have her fun, have a good laugh, get some entertainment value, and then allow the spell to find its completion in her story, bringing Anastasia and Prince Neal together for good.

She grabbed a butterfly bookmark and marked her page, not daring to dog-ear the well worn, slightly brittle paper. There was a new-age shop in town, run by a woman who claimed to be able to read tarot cards and tea leaves. Tomorrow, Abbey would stop by and pick up the ingredients. Then she’d stand barefoot in the Massachusetts winter in mid-February and perform the ridiculous spell.

Just for kicks, she reassured herself.

She lay awake for hours, thinking about her story, wondering why her aunt had bought such a strange book. Picturing the chivalrous Prince Neal, his dark eyes gazing into hers.

A midweek ROW80 check-in…

Writing goals

1.) Make measurable progress on one of my WIPs. Wrote 3,593 words in “Be True.”

2.) Read four books on the craft/business of writing. 3/4. Continued rereading “Plot and Structure” by James Scott Bell.

3.) Do morning pages in journal Monday-Friday. On track to meet this goal. These pages are quickly becoming a vital part of my creative process.

Social media goals

1.) Check in on Twitter or Facebook daily. On track to meet this goal.

2.) Blog twice a week. On track to meet this goal.

3.) Comment on three-five blog posts daily, Monday-Thursday. On track to meet this goal.

***

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.

What about you? What’s your favorite movie line? How are your projects, writing or otherwise, coming along?

Yearly goals: Sunday ROW80 check-in

This year, I have two main goals: write at least 300,000 words, and read at least 75 books. Last year I read about 59, so hopefully I can increase that this year. This is also the first year I’ve kept track of my monthly/yearly word counts; I used to do just daily/weekly word-count totals, and then move on as soon as a new week started.

Late last year, I wrote a post about taking my writing to the next level, and that’s what these goals are about—pushing myself a little harder, challenging myself a little more. I’m aiming to write somewhere around 1,500 words/day, Monday through Friday. (January was a slow writing month, so I have some catching up to do.) Last year my goal was 1,000 words per day.

I also have a new way to keep track of word count when revising, an approach that my friend and long-time critique partner Kathleen Foucart told me about. You create hot keys to change the color of the words as you revise, so new words are in, say, gray and the older copy is still in black. I’m using Ctrl-alt-j. Then you use a macro that counts only the different-colored words—in this case, gray—and boom, you have a way to track word count while revising. I’m lucky that my husband is an IT guy and was able to create the hot keys and macro for me.

The thing is, goals are satisfying to me. There’s something incredibly rewarding about setting a goal and then pushing myself to reach it. I enjoy the challenge. And I’m looking forward to working toward these goals this year.

What about you? What goals have you set for 2015, and how are those goals coming along? I’d love to hear from you!

Lastly, a Sunday ROW80 check-in…

ROW80LogocopyWriting goals

1.) Make measurable progress on one of my WIPs. Wrote 7,629 words in “Stolen by Magic.”

2.) Read four books on the craft/business of writing. 3/4. Finished reading “Beginnings, Middles, and Ends” by Nancy Kress.

Social media goals

1.) Check in on Twitter or Facebook daily. Goal met.

2.) Blog twice a week. Goal met.

3.) Comment on three-five blog posts daily, Monday-Thursday. Goal met.

Life goals

1.) Do yoga or tai chi or meditate three times per week. 1/3.

2.) Do morning pages in journal Monday-Friday. 5/5. 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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For Writers: Naming Our Characters

Frodo Baggins. Hermione Granger. Elizabeth Bennet. Daenerys Targaryen. A good character name is both unique and memorable at the same time.

Sometimes, as a writer, you meet a character and he or she tells you his or her name instantly. That’s how it was with the shero in my current WIP–Katrina St. George. I knew her name immediately. But some characters don’t reveal their names right away. It takes a little digging. One of my characters was Elspeth (a placeholder name); then she was Celeste. Finally, she was Sabine. I knew as soon as I heard that last one that I’d found her true name.

How do you choose a character’s name? For me, part of it is writer’s instinct. A name either feels way off, not quite right, or like a perfect fit. Sometimes a character introduces herself immediately. Other times, he makes you wait a while—my current hero, Lucas, didn’t tell me his name right off the bat.

My first stopping place for choosing a name is the book “100,000+ Baby Names”—or, as I call it, “100,000+ Character Names.” It’s full of names from the traditional to the trendy, and it’s a perfect place to start a character name search. I also use the site BabyNames.com, which must be a popular stopover for writers, as it includes an article entitled “Naming Tips for Writers” on its homepage. It includes options to search by letter, by gender, or by origin, so it’s a helpful starting place if you’re looking for a name from a specific nationality (I use a lot of Irish, Welsh, or Scottish names, for example.) These options also offer an opportunity to consider name meanings, which some writers like to incorporate into their stories. (Giving a character who’s a soldier a name that means warrior, strength, or champion, for example.)

Sometimes, especially if we’re writing fantasy or science fiction, the name we’re looking for can’t be found in any baby-name book. (Bilbo Baggins and Daenerys Targaryen are obviously the authors’ own creations, for example.) But just because it’s a name we’ve made up doesn’t mean it can’t resonate with our readers and stick in their heads. Even a created name can and should be memorable.

Lastly, a Sunday ROW80 check-in…

Writing goals

1.) Make measurable progress on one of my WIPs. Wrote 4,623 words in “The Phoenix Feather”—mostly in character backgrounds.

2.) Read four books on the craft/business of writing. 2/4. Finished reading “How to Market a Book” by Joanna Penn. Started reading “Beginnings, Middles, and Ends” by Nancy Kress.

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-five blog posts daily, Monday-Thursday. Met for every day except Thursday.

Life goals

1.) Do yoga or tai chi or meditate three times per week. 2/3.

2.) Do morning pages in journal Monday-Friday. 4/5.

***

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.

What about you? How do you come up with your character names? Does it ever take a while for a character to reveal his or her true name? Have you invented any names for your characters? Do you consider name meanings when choosing character monikers?

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World-Building for Writers: Creating a world readers will love

There’s nothing more exciting—and, often times, overwhelming—than creating a fictional world and populating it with an interesting collection of characters, each with their own agenda. A fully realized, richly detailed fictional world can capture readers’ hearts, minds, and imaginations. The world is full of readers who would eagerly receive their letter of acceptance to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, who’d gladly take a stroll through the Shire, who wouldn’t mind flying off to Neverland or entering a world where dragons soar or werewolves roam.

So where do we begin? Here are a few of the exercises I use to get my stories off the ground. (Many thanks to Michelle, whose comment on a previous post inspired this one.) Discovering and creating a fantasy world takes patience and time—with each draft, with each exercise, we dig a little deeper, all in the hopes that readers will one day be eager to lose themselves in that world.

Getting the lay of the land

image by Alarna Rose Gray, WANA Commons
image by Alarna Rose Gray, WANA Commons

If I’m setting a story in a fictional place, it helps to make a map. That makes the logistics of writing a lot easier–you’ll know about how long it takes to travel from one part of the world to another and the names of important places and geographic locations. It also makes a world feel so much more vivid if we know the specific names of places in our world. Not just the woods, but the Iron Wood. Not just the mountains, but the Misty Mountains.

Even if the maps we create don’t make it into the pages of our books, understanding the size of our worlds and the places within them helps us create rich, detailed worlds.

Understanding the history and mechanics of our worlds

If your story is a fantasy, how does magic work in your world? What sorts of magical creatures populate it? If it’s sci-fi, what are the important technologies in your world and how long have they been around?

There are plenty of areas to consider—politics, climate, significant historical events, cultural norms, architecture…the list goes on.

When I create a new world, I also will create Word documents in which I explore the major historical events that took place in my world, how the governing system works, etc. If there’s magic, I’ll figure out what the rules of magic are in that world and how magic works. If there are magical creatures, I might make a glossary listing their names, abilities, and basic backgrounds.

For example, in my newest WIP, the first book in what I’m calling the Mage Wars trilogy, a centuries-long war has been raging. There are five different factions, each with their own agenda, so I created a table that lists the name of each group along with their strengths/weaknesses, symbols, alliances, and where they stand in the battle—what their end goal is. I plan on expanding it to include a more detailed history as time goes on—major battles won or lost, that sort of thing.

Collecting images

When I first began collecting images for my stories, I started looking for images of each of my main characters so I could visualize them better. But this can also be expanded to include images of the geography of our world or the homes of our characters, important buildings, etc.—anything that helps us in describing our worlds in rich detail.

What about you? What exercises do you use when creating a fictional world? What are some of your favorite fantasy worlds and what do you love most about them?

Lastly, a midweek ROW80 check-in…

Writing goals

1.) Make measurable progress on one of my WIPs. Revised the first chapter in “The Phoenix Feather.” Did some world-building for that story. Wrote 223 words in “Made of Shadows.”

2.) Read two books on the craft/business of writing. 1/2. Began reading “How to Market a Book” by Joanna Penn.

Social media goals

1.) Check in on Twitter or Facebook daily. On track to meet this goal.

2.) Blog twice a week. On track to meet this goal.

3.) Comment on three-five blog posts daily, Monday-Thursday. On track to meet this goal.

Life goals

1.) Do yoga or tai chi or meditate three times per week. 0/3.

2.) Do something related to volunteer work or spiritual practice at least once a week. No progress.

3.) Do morning pages in journal Monday-Friday. Met for 2 of 3 days so far this week.

***

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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2014 Year in Review and ROW80 Round 4 Wrap-Up

2014 is almost at an end, and it’s been whirlwind of a year. My first full year writing full time has been a busy one, and I have plenty of material to revise in the coming year. Hopefully 2015 will see me finishing stories and submitting them.

Here’s a quick list of what I accomplished in 2014:

Read 16 books on the craft/business of writing.

Wrote

  • two drafts of a novella, “Good Old-Fashioned Magic”
  • first drafts of three novelettes in the Cabot Sisters series (“Stolen by Magic,” “Called by Magic,” and “Beckoned by Magic”)
  • and a first draft of a short story, “Midwinter Bride”

Participated in four rounds of A Round of Words in 80 Days, blogging an average of two times per week and trying to check in on Twitter or Facebook daily. I didn’t always meet these goals, but I did the majority of the time. I’ve met so many wonderful people through the ROW80 challenge, through the WIPpet Wednesday blog hop, and through Twitter and have connected with old friends through Facebook.

I also think it’s important to go into the new year with a plan, so I’ve created a business plan for my writing, mapping out the projects I want to finish while keeping it flexible—you never know when a new story might grab your imagination and refuse to let go. In 2015, I hope to finish the Cabot Sisters series, which I’ve planned as a series of six novelettes, and to finish some other projects that are in the pipeline. I also plan to start submitting stories to publishers.

What about you? What projects did you begin or finish in 2014? What’s on your agenda for next year? Do you create a business plan for your writing?

ROW80 Round 4 Wrap-Up…

Writing

1.) Make measurable progress on one of my WIPs. Finished a novelette, “Stolen by Magic,” and started or continued work on three other projects.

2.) Read three books on the craft/business of writing. Three of three books read. Read “Writing the Breakout Novel” by Donald Maass, “Save the Cat” by Blake Snyder, and “Write. Publish. Repeat.” by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant.

Social media goals:

My social media goals were to check in on Twitter or Facebook daily, blog twice a week, and comment on three to five blogs per daily, Monday-Thursday. I would say I met these goals most of the time, with only a few missed days or check-ins here or there.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

Happy holidays!

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