My Writing Life: Updates and New Writing Plans

It has been a long time, a long, long time, since I’ve had real time for the blog. For the past year and a bit, I was working a crazy, busy, but fun day job. I took the job with one main goal: to save enough money to comfortably fund a few full time years of writing time, and I’m happy to announce that I’m finally there, I’ve arrived. I am once more a full-time writer.

It is a challenging thing, to be a fiction writer that makes money. I see it over and over again and if you search, “how to make money as a fiction writer” online, the returns will be full of a general response that sums up to, “you can’t.” I don’t believe that is true, however, it is very difficult when compared to a day job that pays a regular salary with benefits. So for the past year my focus was on buying my own time, and for anyone that wants to writer, I would recommend this path. Not only is it great to be where I am now: sitting in my office writing this blog, it was a rewarding year full of experiences, regular paycheques, and expensive coffee.

However, it was challenging to find time to write, and I didn’t manage to finalize the projects I’ve been working on for over a year now. I hope, however, to have something new out soon, but I have so many different projects sitting around, and one main project that is the focus of all my commitments, that I can’t promise anything. But the fantastic thing about funding my own writing journey for the next couple of years is that I’m free to work on projects as they capture my interest. It’s all just about slow and steady progress, reaching my daily goals, and thinking fresh thoughts.

That said, I have been fleshing out my minimum goals. As a writer, no matter if it’s full-time, part-time, or on the side, it’s always been important for me to have goals. A few years back, my goal was to write 365,000 words in a year (approximately four books). It sounded impossible, but when you break it down into 1,000 words a day, it sounded achievable, and it was, I did it!

So, with it being September and my favorite time to make goals, I decided that I would set a minimum goal of 1,000 words every weekday. In a year, this will come to about 261,000 words! With still taking my weekends off! Again, I believe this is a highly achievable goal, and will still give me plenty of time for the business side of things and rewriting, which will take up a large part of my day since I have some great projects that I want to make better.

I’m also hoping (fingers-crossed), that this will leave me with a bit of time each week to check in on this blog, mostly because checking in here keeps me honest, makes me compare my progress to my goals, and is a reminded to myself of what I’m setting out to do.

Do you have any new goals for the next 12 months? If you do, feel free to share them below, and best of luck on your goals.

See you next week!
JEH

Writing During COVID-19

I’m sure you’ve heard about COVID-19, unless you were on a 12-Day silent retreat like Jared Leto, you can’t miss it. It is everywhere, and it is all the time, and it is time-consuming. Where I live, we’ve recently been asked to all work and stay at home. Try not to leave, use social distancing, oh, and kids have no school so watch them too.

It sounds like a writer’s dream, but I’m struggling. My writing has been on major pause for at least a full week now. There is so much information coming at me, so many changes day after day, but I think the biggest change is the complete alteration of my routine.

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Currently, I’m a writer with a day job, but for the past seven months or so I’ve found pleasure in taking a morning coffee break from my day job at a cute little café across the street. A half-hour might not be a lot of time, but it was enough to get a page or two of writing done. And at a page a day, that’s a novel a year. I felt like I was making good progress. Now, I haven’t even been writing that one page a day.

So this afternoon I had to sit down and have a talk with myself. I needed to plan, to work out what I will work on during this lockdown so that I use this time at home to the best of my ability.

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Part of what I find hard about writing when stuck at home is that I’m a people watcher. I love watching people, observing them (not in a creepy way), but in order to see what makes us human, what makes us tick. I like to try to understand people and the choices we make. And I can’t do that anymore.

Sure, there’s social media. I’ve been on Twitter more than I have in a long time, but that is a black hole that’s easy to not come back from, and some of the news I read on there sets me so off-kilter that writing is even more difficult afterward. Social media just isn’t where I need my head to be at these days. So my first decision was easy: less social media, less news (I was checking at least once an hour), and more time with PAPER that won’t tempt me to check for the latest update or fake news headline. This is why paper is great, another reason why I will always love paper books, and writing in paper journals because when you’re focused on them, you aren’t sidetracked by a blinking light or a ping or low-power warning.

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My second decision was more difficult. I need a project that will consume my attention, that I am so tempted to be with that it is easy to write. I have many projects. I’m always working on more than one thing. And while I want to finish absolutely everything I start (I’m that kind of person I guess), some things take a lot more effort to get through than others. So, for a while, I’m going to switch focus. I’m going to continuing finishing my first edit of BY SAPPHIRE LIGHT, my young-adult fantasy steampunk novel that I love, but I’m going to press pause on the second edit because editing is WORK. In order to keep myself happy and writing while this whole COVID-19 thing is going on, I’m going to let myself go back to drafting, and I’m going to draft by hand a fantasy novel that I started a few years back and haven’t spent much time on, mostly because I promised myself I would write the entire thing by hand, and I haven’t had that kind of time. But now I do, so this project is perfect these times.

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And lastly, I’m going to continue journalling because journalling makes me feel good, it helps lighten my anxieties and sorts out my thoughts and my plans and my head in general.

So starting today, that’s my plan. Did you make a writing plan for COVID-19 and lockdown/voluntary isolation? What are you doing to keep working?

JEH

 

My Writing Life Update June 2019

It has been a very busy month! Primarily because I got a new day job, and that has been all kinds of insanity, BUT, the new job serves my eventual goal of writing more (even though in June I wrote less… much, much less). I was also trying to get my garden in, and then I was trying to get the weeds out, I was coaching soccer, and I was trying to catch up on my annual GoodReads Goal—I set this at 60 books and am only at 21, and in four days I’m supposed to be at 30! Yikes!

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But, in other good news, I head off on a week of vacation on Friday. Time at the lake will hopefully equate to both books read and stories written, but I’m also hoping just to stare off into the wilderness and relax, so if I don’t get much done, I can’t get too angry with myself.

Project-wise, I’m working toward getting The Chain ready for publication, and it’s close. I’m hoping to push through on the holidays and then send it off for final edits, which means likely another 1-2 months before the last Artifacts of Avalum book is on the e-shelves.

After Avalum, I want to finish my standalone book, Society of Ink, which I love and is about half finished currently. After that, it’s going to be another young adult series, which I’m planning to outline over the next couple of months when I’m busy with my day job, but not to busy to plot!

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The blog has been quiet, I know, but as always, I’m hoping to spend a bit more time on it going forward, but it is definitely near the bottom of the list, as most days if I only have 30 minutes to write, that time is going to be spent on stories, not discussions. Though other times, like tonight, blogging suits me just fine!

What have you been up to?

JEH

How to Be a Writer With a Day Job Part 1: Making Time

At the beginning of January I announced that I would be doing a series this year on being a Writer with a Day job. I planned my first post for January 2019, but here it is, February 1, blizzardy and cold, and I’m just getting round to it now. Ah, the realities of being a writer with a day job.

Last year, I had the amazing privileged of being awarded a literary grant, which gave me a full four months to work as a writer with no other distractions. Then, when July came, I returned to my demanding day job and this gave me an entirely new perspective on what it is be creative and to work at a regular 9-5 where you have a boss, and assignments, and things to do that must get done, none of which have anything to do with crafting fantastical universes. When I returned to my job, I was struck with one particular wallowing grief: how will I make time for my art now???

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If you’re like me, wanting to create day after day, wanting to figure out how you will ever find time to finish your novel, your short story, your poems—or heck, even start those projects in the first place—then I’m glad you’re here. Because today that’s what I’m going to talk about, albeit rather briefly, because I have a day job to return to (Ssssh, don’t tell my boss).

#1 Search

The first thing you need to do, if you are a writer or artist working a day job, is take a long-distance look at the time you have every day for everything: regular work, home life, friends, television, the gym, sulking. Lay it all out and then move in really close and find those places you can block off just for writing. It might be that every Saturday morning you nothing for the first three hours. Why not book off one or three for writing. What about your lunch breaks? Are you really using them productively? Maybe instead of using the time to browse Facebook posts that you’ve likely already seen five times before, use ten minutes to squeeze out one hundred word on your work in progress. Take a look at your time and figure out where writing can naturally fit in. It might not be a lot of time, but a little bit adds up over a year or two.

#2 Cut

The next thing you can do is cut. Cut ruthlessly. Cut out mind-trash, and instead create a little of mind-building. In other words, stop watching so much television. Stop binging on NETFLIX. Stop watching stuff you aren’t paying attention to anyway because the characters are all immature and whiny and terrible. When people ask me how I fit in time for writing, my first answer is “I don’t watch television anymore”. You know what everyone tells me, “Oh, neither do I. Except for Black Mirror, Riverdale, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Grey’s Anatomy. I mean, I down to like only six or seven shows.” That’s six or seven hours a week you could be writing! In fact, if you even just picked your two favorite shows, that four hours a week you could be writing. Four hours that you could be working on the world you really want to be in instead of numbing your mind with someone else’s creation. Honestly, I maybe watch half and hour to two hours in a regular week. And yes, I do binge on occasion, or watch a new release movie I’m really interested in, but I’m ruthless with my time, I want it all for my writing. All of it. But I know I should find balance, too.

#3 Marathons

A few years back I found this amazing writing group. It’s amazing because it’s a writing productivity group. We get together regularly on Wednesday and writing straight for three hours (it’s come and go so you can really just be there for as long as you choose). We don’t talk much. We just write. I get a lot of creative work done on Wednesday nights. But another thing we do a few times a year is marathons. We find a Saturday or Sunday and book off a day, a whole day, for sitting together in silence and writing. It may sound strange, but there is something about being surrounded by other writer’s writing that keeps you honest. You can’t slack off and watch Netflix, you can’t start cleaning your house, you can’t lie on the floor and wallow in writer’s block. People are watching (well, not really, but they are noticing), so you have to work. You have to spend the whole day working. And it’s amazing where one long day dedicated to a single project can get you.

JEH

 

 

 

2019 Blogging Plans: What’s Upcoming on This Site

I think it was sometime before Christmas that I mentioned I was going to spend a little bit of time thinking about what I want to share in 2019. I love blogging, I love this blog, but I don’t love how little time I have for it. Between blogging and writing books or stories, I’m always going to choose the later, so this year I’m going to cut back a bit more but at the same time try to be more regular with my posts.

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In 2019, I’m going to do a series, one post a month, about How to Be a Writer with a Day Job. Last year, I was lucky enough to be a full-time writer for four months, thanks to a grant from the Saskatchewan Arts Board, but this year I need to keep my cash flow high, so it’s full time at the day job for me. Each month, I’ll do one feature post that focuses on one aspect of being a writer while also working a day job, full-time or part-time, that may or may not have anything to do with writing. The first one will be in two weeks.

Other than these feature posts, 2019 will focus on the same kind of things I’ve been doing for a while know, updates on what I’ve been reading and writing, writing prompts for the inspiring writer in you, and any other special posts I just happen to love and find the time to do.

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Another thing I’ve just recently implemented this year is a 600 words per day writing goal, which for me is pretty easy to maintain. This means that by the end of the year I will have written over 200,000 words, or two full novels plus some side projects at a minimum. I’m excited about this. This is much less than my goal a couple years ago of writing 1,000 words per day, or 365,000 words in a year (closer to 4 novels), but one thing I realized when completing that 1,000 words per day goal was that it left me little time to fit in rewriting. And this year I have a lot of rewriting scheduled, to the point where I hope to release 4 full-length novels (more on these in another post).

Yesterday, I had a mini-celebration because the night before I finished a draft on a project I’d been stalling on for some time (The Chain). This is the last book in the Artifacts of Avalum series, and that may be why I slowed down. Also, I was distracted by another shiny project. So far, the year is off to a good start, and I hope to keep this trend going in 2019.

All the best to you this year!

JEH

Post NaNoWriMo Plans

Wow. I must have been really busy last month as I did little to no blogging! Obviously I was busy creating, writing away on my NaNoWriMo Novel which is the best novel ever! I’ve already got my cover artist working on the cover, and I’m excited to one day share this project with you, but it will be a bit of time yet!

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First things, I need to finish The Circlet: Artifacts of Avalum Book 3 and get that out. I’m pretty close to being done the draft, which is awesome. If only I didn’t have this day job taking up all my time!

But, the good thing about December other than Christmas and all the good food and parties, is the time I get off work! I’m planning to use this time to balance out my writing life with my day job, sometimes it’s a challenge working a creative job alongside a real job, but most of the time it is a refreshing challenge that gets me moving!

Do you have plans for this December?

JEH

What I’m Reading: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

Young Adult Book Review: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

I finished this book a long time ago, but am terribly behind on book reviews, so you’ll actually see what I thought of the entire Raven Cycle series in very short order (hint: I loved it).

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The Dream Thieves, picked up right where The Raven Boys left off. If you haven’t read the first book of this series, you should do so right now. You can find my write-up on the first book here. Don’t worry, my reviews are never long because I absolutely detest spoilers (I’m the kind of person who sticks fingers in my ears and hums so that I don’t hear anything I don’t want to know). What I will say is that The Dream Thieves is just as good as The Raven Boys, and expands more deeply into the main characters (the book is shared among many), and the magic of the world. It’s beautiful.

I actually listened to The Dream Thieves as an audiobook, and it was fabulously read by Will Paton, who does the entire series. This is great for continuity. Paton is great at voices without over doing it, and I can listen to the book without feeling dozy (Although that might also because of the fast-paced adventure).

5/5 Stars.

JEH

This Writer’s Life In October 2018

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update, so I figure it’s about time. I’ve been busy lately. I just finished a new book, a beautiful ghostly story about two sisters. I’m not planning to self-publish this one, but am hoping to find an agent or a press that will pick it up, which is a bit different for me.

Since I’ve now finished two literary projects, I’m taking a break by moving back into the comfortable world of Avalum. Artifacts of Avalum Book 3, The Chain, is moving along nicely and I plan to have a good draft done before NaNoWriMo begins in November, when I hope to write something new. Here’s a picture of the cover art for the The Chain, I just love it. As always, it was done by Leah Keeler.

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Other than writing, I’ve been working on being more environmentally responsible. I’m trying to switch to using only reusable coffee cups. While to-go cups are convenient, they create a lot of waste. I imagine there will be the occasion where I need to use a disposable cup, but I’m definitely trying to reuse where I can. Here are a couple pictures of some of my favorite travel cups.

I’ve been using these mugs to enjoy way too many pumpkin spice lattes, but it’s good to enjoy fall while it’s here,  because in Saskatchewan, it’s just way too short.

JEH

A Writer’s Summer 2018 in Review

It was a busy and fantastic summer! As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I went to the ocean for a fabulous vacation and had a great time. Even though I was on vacation, I was hoping to get some writing done (a writer’s job is never done, is that right?), but I actually didn’t do much work at all and it felt nice.

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Now that my full-time writing life is at an end for now (I was back to the day job July 9th), there is a bit too much work in my life. I’m still working away on a bunch of projects, which I will blog about later this week, so most days it feels like I’m working two jobs (8-5 Monday to Friday, and Wednesday evenings and Saturday or Sunday mornings on writing, plus whatever other time I can fit in). I’m also trying to get back to the gym, so we’ll see how that goes!

But back to vacation. I’m still in that half-place where vacation feels like it was something you actually did, not just dreamed, and I definitely wish I was still sitting ocean side. I hit up some new cafes, drove over 3,000 km, through prairie and mountain, rivers, lakes, and ocean (okay, we took the ferry over the ocean). As a writer, it was great to experience all of that, and not just take the airplane shortcut.

I had some adventures, I even found what could vaguely possibly be a large black pearl on the rocks. What do you think?

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One of my favorite things about this trip (other than spending precious time with my family), was that I got to revisit Nessa, my hero from the Black Depths Series, and take the same ferry she does when she starts her journey in Sea-Witch. I had to take a copy of the book along with me, just so I could get Nessa’s photo on the boat. Here it is:

I think she looks fantastic there! I love the Black Depths World, and maybe one day I will write a second series that takes place in it (I have an idea, just no time). For now, here are a few more pictures from my vacation.

I hope you had a great summer!

JEH