Kelly Maher
Making time for yourself

Every night I’ve tried to get a little reading in. I’ve missed it too much, and that TBR mountain was getting a wee bit too high. I miss being able to spend hours upon hours reading, but even when I do have that kind of time, I feel like I need to be spending it doing something more productive. Then I remind myself that reading *is* productive. It provides for my mental health. It helps stir my creativity. It lets me see what the market is currently doing! I’m already a pretty quick reader, but I sometimes wish I could read faster. And then I’m glad I read at the speed I do so I can wallow in the story.

Another aspect of taking care of myself is ensuring I give myself the breaks I need to from writing. I’ve hit my stretch goal every day this week so far. I’ve been doing it by writing at least 1500 words in the morning before I go to work, and then working on what’s left to hit 2000 after work. I should easily be able to hit the stretch goal when I get home today, and then again tomorrow and Saturday. Which means, I can take Sunday off from writing. I know I’m going to need the break since my goal for Monday is to write 4500 words. I could just reduce my Monday goal, but I think the refreshment period of no writing on Sunday will be better for me.

What do you do to give yourself mental health breaks?

Project Occipital

I decided to start dedicated work on Project Occipital even earlier than I’d planned. Part of this was due to my plotting out my writing schedule for it on a calendar. To put it politely, my September schedule is a bit insane. With the exception of Labor Day weekend, I’ve got a major event scheduled every weekend of the month. And even Labor Day weekend includes a birthday bash for two friends.

Since this is Labor Day weekend, I’ve decided that I’m going to burn through the first draft of PO as fast as I can. After taking a little over a week off of writing, I’ll be spending this last week of August slowly ramping back up my writing speed and am shooting for 1500 words each weekday and Saturday. Sunday, providing I don’t kill multitudes of brain cells at the birthday party, I’m shooting for 3000 words. Monday, that glorious day off of the day job, has a target word count of 4500. If I can work in an extra 500 words Monday through Saturday, I’ll take Sunday off of direct writing, but will spend the time detail plotting the rest of the story. That should put me at a total word count of 18,000, which means six days of writing at my regular daily goal of 2000 to hit the upper limit of story length for the market I’m targeting with this story. Taking the first full weekend of the month off (especially since that Saturday is the monthly WRW meeting) puts me at finishing on the 10th. This is perfect as I’ll be spending the weekend after that at my cousin’s wedding. I can then spend the week after the wedding editing PO and then send it out to a couple of beta readers. If they give it the thumbs up, I can have it out the door on submission before October 1st. Woot!

What things have you excited about these days?

Reading and Goodreads

With the first draft of Project Ulna done, I decided to dive into my TBR pile during this break before starting up with Project Occipital. I’m focusing on finishing books I’ve started and then let fall by the wayside for whatever reason, but knew I wanted to go back to one day. The first of the completed books was Sarah Morgan’s An Invitation to Sin (A|K|BN|ARE). Alter ego got a complimentary copy of it from Sarah, and both of us are grateful she feeds our addiction to her stories! As a writer, I love how Sarah does a fantabulous job of showing her characters’ personalities. I make notes to myself of “THIS IS HOW YOU DO IT!!!” As a reader, I enjoy how both of her main characters are strong individuals and don’t angst longer than seems reasonable over their issues. Right now I’m working my way through Sinner’s Heart (A|K|BN|ARE), the last in Zoë Archer’s Hellraisers trilogy. Zoë’s another author who I admire for her character development skills. She also tells a hell of a great adventure tale.

With this increase in finished reads, I decided to put my dormant Goodreads account to use. Alter ego already uses LibraryThing for official recording of read books, but since I know a lot of you who read romance also use Goodreads, I figured I’d make an author profile there. I actually created my GR account back in 2007 according to my profile. I’ve been leery of GR in the past, partially because for the recording of what I read, LT made more sense to alter ego. The flare-ups of spats I’ve seen originating from GR also sent up red flags for me. For this reason, I’m going to restrict my presence there to updating my profile as appropriate and noting what books I’m reading. If I finish the books, I’ll give a rating. And since I tend to only finish books I like, the rating will probably range between three to five stars. So, if you’re interested in following me on GR, check out my profile.

Career planning as a writer

First, the first first draft of Project Ulna is done! Yay!! I finished on Friday with a final word count of 90,488.

Back in late-March/early-April, I worked out a rudimentary career plan for myself. If we take April 1st as a start date, my six month plan was to write and revise Project Ulna. That was it. I didn’t actually start Project Ulna until June 1st, two months later. This was due to the fact I had the WRW Retreat in April and alter ego attended RT and Book Expo America in May. There was also a lot of stuff happening at the day job. Obviously, I’ve finished the first draft in time for the original due date of October 1st. I don’t think I’ll finish the revision, however. In last Thursday’s post, I went into this a little bit.

The other near-term career goal I set for myself was to write 100,000 words of material in one year. I didn’t qualify it as “publishable” as my intention was only to produce and get into the habit of producing. For production goals of over one year out, I did add the publishable qualifier. Of the new material I’ve produced since the first of this year, and really, since the first of March as I’d started the file for Short Story B on March 10th, I’ve produced 101,195 words. 2,270 of those words are for two stories which are not yet complete. I expect to add another 90-120,000 words to that count by the end of this year with the novellas. I have greatly exceeded my expectations for myself in terms of production.

I do have plans for projects to work on through about June of next year. At this point, other than the novellas and revising Project Ulna, I don’t want to pin down absolutely any particular project. At the same time, I do want to start planning on how many stories I’d like to produce next year. I plan on submitting the novellas starting in December or so, with the hope of finishing the fourth by the end of December. While those are out on submission, I’m going to commit at least January, and probably part if not all of February, to revising and rewriting Project Ulna. I want it ready for submission by March 1st–even if I decide to stick it in a drawer due to the market at that point.

The most frustrating thing about career planning as a writer–especially if you choose the traditional publishing path for even part of your work as I have–is the uncontrollable factors. The most I can do is produce a story I’m passionate about, and make it an entertaining and well-told story. How others respond to it, be they agents, editors, or readers, is completely out of my hands. If I were to go the self-publishing route, certain factors would be back within my control, but I still cannot control reader response, and therefore sales. This is a very risky business, but if lighting strikes, you can do very well. Part of that means getting yourself into a position for lightning to strike. Which goes back to producing entertaining and well-told stories 😀

Dear Author’s August Extravaganza!

Today I’m sponsoring one of the featured giveaways! You’ll have a shot at a signed copy of Duty & Desire and a $25 gift certificate to your choice of bookstore if they sell gift certificates. Enter over at the Dear Author website. Comments are closed for this post.

Prioritizing life

One of the life skills I’m constantly relearning is how to balance what I choose to do with my life and not feel bad for the decisions I choose. This past long weekend was spent with my family. I chose to spend my time with them rather than making sure I got my daily word count. On my writing days I did spend some time writing, but I didn’t push to hit the goal. I felt bad that I didn’t push harder, but I then spent more time with my family who I have to fly to in order to see them for a long weekend. In the balance of the things, family is more important. Now, if I saw them on a more frequent basis, I could more easily say “hey, I’ve got to spend this time writing so I’ll meet up with you in a little bit.” The other thing is that every day is a new day. So I only hit half of my goal on Friday and Monday. First, I had built up a buffer of a thousand words. That took care of the “deficit” from Friday. Tuesday, I wrote almost an extra thousand words on top of the daily goal. Every day is a new day. If you missed your goal one day, shoot for making your goal the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that.

The other thing I realized last night is that more work needs to be done on Project Ulna than I currently have scheduled. I also need to give it more time to marinate. September is going to be crazy busy for me as every weekend is spoken for with events. In talking with a friend, I realized I needed to rearrange my writing schedule. Instead of spending September doing edits on Project Ulna, I’ll instead be working on the first draft, and hopefully edits, of Project Occipital. This is a project I’m itching to finish as I’ve got a very specific plan for it once it’s completed where I have ideas for Project Ulna, but I’m also cognizant that PU isn’t as “on market” as the other projects I have planned. I prioritized writing PU this summer because I wanted to get the ideas down as they’ve been knocking around in my mind for over two years now and I wanted to see if I could write the first draft of a novel in three months or less. Well, experiment *almost* accomplished! It’s time to focus on the more “on market” ideas and get to selling them. I’m in no way abandoning PU, but I first want to get PO written and then the trilogy of novellas. My goal is to have PO and at least the first novella out on submission by the first of the new year. When the new year starts, I’ll take a break from writing new things to see how PO and the trilogy do. I’ll use that time to edit PU and whip it into shape. This is definitely a luxury of not being on contract, and I’ll take it while I can get it 😀

Vacation brain

As expected, I got very little writing done while at home visiting my family. I’m a wee bit behind in where I hoped to be by this point, but enh. I did write while I was away, so it’s not like I’m completely in the hole. I’ll also spend this weekend finishing off whatever doesn’t get written this week, so there’s that. I’m also tentatively planning an extra hour of writing almost every night to ensure I’m done with the first draft by Sunday night as my brother and his family will be in town visiting next week.

I also wanted to highlight a rarely done story style a friend of mine wrote which released last week. Christine d’Abo’s Choose Your Shot is an erotic “choose your own adventure” novel. If you loved CYOAs as much as I did as a kid, I think you’ll enjoy this new story from Christine 😀

Finish line in sight

When this posts, I will likely be out and about with my mom. Always a good thing. Yesterday, I crossed the 75,000 word mark in Project Ulna. According to my schedule I only needed to be at the 74K mark, but the extra thousand was build up from an extra few words here and there. I had intended to try and write ahead so I could maybe take tomorrow off from writing, but unless I get a major writing session in later today (not likely with my family), I’ll be spending the morning writing before my sister-in-law and nephews come up for a day of play.

I expect to finish the first draft by next weekend. This is, by far, the fastest I’ve ever written a full-length novel. I now know I *can* do it. Even if I never sell Project Ulna (and I’d very much like to one day), the knowledge and confidence in being able to run the marathon in a timely fashion so to speak is priceless. This is not to discount the necessity of edits. And, oh boy, does PU need edits. I have a plan in place. It’s different from my usual method. However, it feels right for the scope of PU as well as the way I’ve written it, which is also a bit different from my usual method. But back to the first draft or marathon. I’m nearly at the 22 mile mark and I’m running as fast as I can for that line.

Read a Romance Month

August has been declared to be “Read a Romance” Month. Bobbi has gathered together some of the finest authors in the business and asked them why romance matters to them. If you’re looking for a new author, or want to read a great interview from one of your favorites, check out the website. She’s posting at least three interviews a day, every day in August. Who are some of your favorite authors of romance?

The aforementioned “futzing around”

Last night I had another attack of “OMG!!! I AM NOT DOING ALL OF THE WRITING THINGS WHICH I SHOULD BE DOING!!!!” It’s always fun to have to sit yourself down and give yourself a talking to.

First, I do not want to burn out. I’ve done it before. It’s not pretty. It also does not make for a healthy writing career. Especially in today’s publishing industry. Second, rest and play make for a happy Kelly. Wednesday nights are usually my knitting nights, but my knitting buddy had other plans which she did invite me to join in on. However, due to some very wonky dreams and sleep patterns over the weekend, I haven’t been as well rested as I would have liked, so I bowed out. As Wednesday nights are not a usual time for me to be home, I’m not all that conversant as to what is on TV. After much surfing of the channels, I settled on a standby favorite: PBS. I’m a documentary nerd. Also, Poirot. Him and his little grey cells!

Related to everyday futzing around is an upcoming trip home to see the family. I’ll be gone for five days. Two of those days is the weekend which I now take off. No biggie. However, the other three days need to be sorted out as to production. From past experience, I know I can get 1000 words written on the plane. The length of the flight means there’s usually about 50 minutes of actual electronic usage. Since I’m taking the bus to the airport, I can also squeeze in some words using my phone. Maybe 300. Five hundred if I push it. Stupid virtual keyboard inhibiting my speedy typing skills. Which means I can take care of a good chunk of my required words while traveling on either end. However, what to do on that third day home? Well, I can give up some of my futzing around time this weekend and work ahead. Or I can just tell my family to buzz off for a couple of hours while I get my work done. Considering how I’m only going to be home for what is essentially a long weekend, I think I’ll shoot for the working ahead option. If I need to write while I’m at home, I will, but I’d prefer to spend that time with my family.

Since most of my time before my trip is going to be spent writing, anyone got suggestions on birthday presents for an almost-one-year-old?