How to Write 261,000 Words in a Year: Update #1

In my last update, I stated my new goal this year is to write 1,000 words every weekday. If I do that, I will have written 261,000 words in one year, or the equivalent of 3 books of just under 90,000 words each. For me, drafting 1,000 words a day is pretty straightforward. I make myself sit down in my cosy armchair and I make my fingers move, without caring whether or not the words are any good. I’ll worry about that part later, during the rewriting process, once I actually have something to work with.

I started a chart at the beginning of September—my favourite time of year to start new goals—so that I can track how much I’m writing and what project I’m working on. Even with taking weekends off, which may or may not be the best thing (but I think I’ll make that a separate post), I’ve been able to meet my goal so far. So where am I at? Take a look at the chart below to see my progress for the past week.

Currently, I’m a bit over 5,000 words above my goal. I’m excited about this, as it means my goal is at the right level. Some days, I can barely manage to squeeze in the 1,000 words, and others it’s easy to double that, and occasionally, as you can see on Wednesday, I have so much other stuff going on that I draft no new words at all (though I try really, really hard to get at least a half hour of straight typing time in every day).

You can see the names of my projects on the right, too. Factor of Safety is the name of my current work in progress, a literary fiction novel that I hope to be able to share with the world one day. Weekend is not a project, just an acknowledgement atet it’s okay that I didn’t write any words that day. You’ll see on occasion other titles cropping up in this column, as I’m always working on more than one project, though at the moment all my other project work is focused on rewriting aspects (an no, I don’t count rewritten words in my word counts, my rewriting I do on an hours per day basis and I don’t currently track that, though maybe I should?).

Are you doing any writing? Is it going well? I hope so!

JEH

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

A Writer’s Plans in 2020

So far the start of the year has been incredibly busy! That’s a good thing, since I’m gearing up for a big year in 2020. The blog has been pretty quiet lately, and it will likely continue to be so until summer. Why? Because for the first half of 2020 I will continue to be a writer with a day job. This means that like 2019, I won’t get as much done as I dream of, but I still have plans. And what happens in the second half of 2020? Well, my savings goal will have been reached and I will once again be transitioning to full-time writing. I am so excited for this that the impatience is quickly growing.

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On the docket for 2020 are a number of things, first and foremost to continue working on my current work in progress, By Sapphire Light. This is a young adult steampunk fantasy that I just love working on! I finished the first draft in December, and have recently begun the first rewrite, which is moving along nicely! In early January, I also worked on a few other small projects that I plan to continue with for the rest of 2020.

My main goal this year is to get the entire trilogy for By Sapphire Light drafted. This means two more books to draft, and the first one to finalize. I would love to have this done by July 1st, before I transition to full-time writing, since I have many other projects that will be vying for my attention at that time.

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The good thing is I have a writing retreat booked in late February, which will carve out sometime in the first half of the year for writing. I’m continuing with my Wednesday writing night, and have been pretty good at chipping away on my project on evenings and weekends. I’m hopefully that I can get one more mini-retreat in before June as well.

When I did my writing goal planning for 2020, I actually only planned for the first six months, since I’m not exactly sure how things are going to line-up for July. I’m trying to let things flow, and see what comes more naturally now while I’m balancing work life-home life-and writing life. Here’s to a great year in 2020 for everyone!

JEH

How I Won NaNoWriMo, and How I’m Winning My Writing Year

I did it! I won NaNoWriMo again! And this was probably the easiest year for me because I love my current Work in Progress so much! I’m very happy that I managed to push through NaNo this year, especially given that I’m in the middle of a major house renovation (Hello New Office! —More on that later).

First I want to talk a bit about how I managed to win NaNo when I’m so busy, when I have an incredibly busy day job, a busy personal life, and a major renovation going on right now.

I did it by making time. Every night I did some writing. If I didn’t make the full 1676 words per day one day, I tried to make sure I could catch up the next. I booked time for myself on the weekends to get extra words done, I made it to my weekly writing productivity meet-ups, and we had one Saturday marathon where I wrote a whopping 11,000 words to pass the 50,000 word mark. (I may have bought myself a box of chocolates to cheer myself on… They may also now be all gone…). You can see my daily wordcount summarized below, along with my wordcount since July 1, 2019, when I decided I would write 500 words a day for an entire year!

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So, I won NaNo, and I did it by making time, but also by focusing on my task. When I sat down to write, I wrote. I didn’t daydream or browse the internet or get lost in research like I often do, I just got to it because I knew that my time was limited. This is why I love NaNo, because it gives me a deadline, and deadlines can be the best motivation of all.

Did you do NaNoWriMo this year? What gave you motivation to work?

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

Life as a Full-Time Writer: The End of an Era

Well, I’m sad to say that my days of sitting in my basement all alone and writing stories has come to an end. Or am I? I had a wonderful four months working from home on a collection of literary short stories, thanks to the wonderful Saskatchewan Arts Board, who awarded me a grant. If it wasn’t for people who support the arts, I never would have  got this time, which means I never would have developed fantastic new stories to share with you and the world.

But good times can’t last forever. At least not until I get enough sales to replace my annual salary (which is a pretty good size). And part of me missed my day job. I missed having coworkers to visit with, I missed my afternoon walks around the pond and through the garden, somedays I even missed the cafeteria.

But, I’m pretty sure I will miss the writing life more. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and by that, I mean I’ve always wanted to spend eight hours a day coming up with characters and stories and events, and thinking about ‘what ifs’ ‘and thens’ and ‘maybe’. I’ve never dreamed that writing would be less work than this, and after my four months off, I know it’s not. In fact, it’s often more than eight hours a day because once I could immerse myself in writing full-time, the thinking rarely stopped. My mind was free to roam, and I didn’t have to force it to concentrate on contracts and applications and coworking. It was wonderful.

It seems (from all the internet articles about it), that being able to afford being a full-time writer is a more and more difficult thing. Whether it’s due to the abundance of free articles and stories on the web, changing media (to television, to film, to Twitter), I can’t say. And maybe it has always been difficult to make a living from art. Maybe it’s always been that a couple of people are lucky and the rest of us are relatively unknown. All I do know is that I have my plan to write, whether it’s on the weekend or late in the evening, I will always be writing, because I love it. Not because I hope to become rich and famous, but because I love to think, I love to think about our world and what powers humans, and I love to think about possible other worlds, other realities, and other possibilities. A writer is just what I am.

Now that I’ve finished up a couple major projects, I’m moving on to the next step in the process, which is shopping those projects around and trying to find them a home. Meanwhile, it is also Camp NaNoWriMo, so I’ve also returned back to writing genre fiction, which is a nice break from the literary, though-provoking work I was doing (Not that my genre fiction isn’t somewhat though provoking—at least, I hope it is). To that end, stay  in touch for updates regarding upcoming presentations and publications, or because otherwise I’ll miss you.

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Cheers to work well done!

Thanks for reading!
JEH

January Round-up: Reading, Writing, and Beyond

The first month of 2018 has been a bit up and down for me. I got five books marked off my Goodreads goal (albeit, one was read mostly in 2017). I’m a good 60% through another couple books which I hope to finish the weekend, including A Torch Against The Night, which I’m loving.

This month has been rather cold. There was one warm week, which I enjoyed immensely, but currently we’re back into the deep freeze-most definitely not my favorite part of the year and already I can’t wait for spring. I did take a quick vacation get-away at the end of the month, and spent a day at the enormous World Water Park pretending that I was in Mexico. Ah, if only I had actually been in Mexico just like last year. Well, there is always next year.

January was a terrible month for writing (I blame this on the cold, since all I want to do is sleep and read). I plan on picking that up next month, and finally get somewhere with The Circlet and The Chain (Artifacts of Avalum Books 2 and 3). Tomorrow, I’m going to post my planned February reading list, and I’ll have a few more quick reviews in the coming weeks too. What have you been reading lately?

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JEH

A Writer’s Plans for 2018

Happy New Year everyone! I hope everyone had a great New Year, and maybe found a bit of time for reading, much like I did. I’m glad that 2018 is here. The end of 2017 found me distracted and blue, and I’m ready for a new start. After a busy 2017 releasing Under Jupiter and The Torc, and drafting The Circlet, it is time for a new plan for 2018.

In 2018, I do plan to finish the Artifacts of Avalum Series, with Books 2 and 3 releasing in Sprint and Winter (most likely). But mostly my writing life will be shifting focus because I got a writing grant!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This grant will allow me to take four months off from my day job to focus entirely on writing. For the grant, which I’ve received from the Saskatchewan Arts’ Board (thank you Arts’ Board!), I will be working on a very specific project, namely some literary short stories. This is very different writing that what I normally post about here, but I love it just as much. (If you want a sample of this work, you can find a free story here, at Broken Pencil Magazine, but again, it is very different than the genre fiction I write).

I’m very excited to have dedicated time that is all mine to explore some themes I’ve been pondering for a few years. I start my ‘writing job’ March 1st, and I plan on spending the first couple months of 2018 planning how I will structure my days. I imagine they will involve lots of tea, coffee, and pretty notebooks (and a lot of hard work).

In reading, I set my Goodreads goal yesterday for 53 books in 2018. This is less than the 62 I read in 2017, and for that there are two reasons: 1. I hope to be spending a lot of time writing and rewriting, and 2. I hope to read some longer books. I’ve found over the past year that when I have a goal for reading a lot of books, I tend to choose quicker reads. This means that a lot of books I’ve purchased in the past have been sitting on my shelves for years. (CONFESSION: last year I had 67 books I hadn’t read yet on my upstairs shelves, I now have over 100!!!!). It is definitely time to do some catching up, so I WILL NOT be purchasing new books (probably… well…. maybe… okay, maybe I should be reasonable and say I will not purchase more than 5 new books this year – I hope instead to do some book trading at my local used book store).

So, with piles and piles of books waiting to be read, and a day job to get back to (for the moment), I will once again say Happy New Year, and all the best in 2018. Do you have any big plans you would like to share?

JEH

Writing 365,000 Words in a Year Update #28

Well, it’s been a long time since I updated. Probably the longest gap yet. I’ve been feeling pretty guilty about this, yet telling myself that it’s alright because it’s summer and that means I’m on summer vacation, right?

Wrong.

A goal is a goal and I’ve been slacking. A lot….

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As you can see from the chart, writing has been sporadic at best. This weekend I’m blaming it on spending most of my time building a patio. But that’s done now, and I have four weeks left to make up 60,000 words. The good news is that I already signed up for the 3-Day Novel Writing contest, which means I will likely write at least 20,000 words at the end of the month, during those last four days I gave myself. I’m also going on real vacation – the kind one gets at a day job – this Thursday. First stop is a writing conference, which will hopefully get my mojo going and most of those words written.

Meanwhile, I’ve also spent a bit of time taking pretty pictures of my books. What do you think?

Here’s to a very busy month. I hope your own goals are going well.

JEH

 

Writing 365,000 Words in a Year Update #27

One of the most difficult things I find about writing 1,000 words a day is time management. Unless you prioritize, it is so easy for the entire day to slip away. It is also very easy to fall asleep and forget that you didn’t write anything at all when you’ve spent your day on the computer, as my day job requires me to do. So, in other words, I had a rather horrible week. Here’s a peak at my chart:

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I had one great day, Wednesday, when I met up with some other writers in a cafe and got almost 4K done. This was going to be the start of a big push. I was going to write 4K a day and catch up on my word count by the end of June. But then I promptly went on a camping trip and that was the end of that goal. Today, I’ve managed to write 1,100 words. If I make this blog nice and short, i might have enough time to make that a nifty 2K. That would be nice, it would at least put a dent in my 26K deficit.

I got the email about preregistration for the 3-Day novel writing contest. I think it might just be about time to sign up. What do you think?

JEH