Essays, writing tips

Achieve your 2019 Goals with an Action Plan

2019 is right around the corner, and that means ringing in the New Year with resolutions!

Now, don’t go off running for the hills. Everyone knows that to achieve goals, especially big ones, we need a plan. So, I thought it’d be fun…okay, maybe not fun…important to get us looking at our writing and editing goals for the upcoming months. To do that, I’m going to post my mini-action plan for 2019 as a means of motivating you to get going on achieving your goals. And, I’d love to see your plan. So, if you are feeling bold (and want some friendly accountability), post yours in the comments section below.

Alright, let’s dive in…

What are my 2019 goals?

  • Continue to build my freelance writing and editing business
  • Produce and distribute my digital magazine, the Lost Pen Magazine
  • Continue to outreach to and coach writers and other creatives
  • Improve the influence and reach of my other website, the Christian Creative Nexus

What challenges am I facing right now?

  • Not enough time to get everything done
  • Feels like I have way too much to do: overwhelm
  • Working on achieving my dreams while working full-time

How can I resolve those issues?

  • Set goals (weekly, monthly) and regularly reassess them
  • Create a list of resources and people to consult/collaborate with when I need help
  • Find time to rest and disconnect when needed

Where do I want to be three-six months from now? 1 year from now?

  • 3-6 months: have a steady stream of writing and editing jobs
  • 1 year: freelancing full-time

Final steps:

  • Evaluate the results at 3-6 months and then again at 1 year.
  • Determine how close I came to my goals and evaluate my successes and failures.
  • Create a new plan to build on my momentum while tweaking the areas I struggled in to better ensure success in the future.

 

winner

 

There you have it. Of course the plan will change and be adapted as I progress over the year, but at least I have a tool to get me moving in the right direction. Also note that I identified my weaknesses/problem areas and then built into the plan simple strategies to address them (sections 2 and 3). I’m fully aware that I don’t know everything—just reading the marketing articles on LinkedIn for 10 minutes is enough to make my confidence shrivel and die!—so I’d rather be prepared to meet any obstacles by having solutions on hand.

I hope you’ll join me and meet 2019 firing on all cylinders by creating your own action plan. Remember, every day spent is a day we can’t retrieve. Don’t waste time. Instead, get moving!

Book Launch/Giveaway, Essays, Misc

Recap Series #2: The Challenges of Writing Wolf’s Bane, Sequel to The Purple Morrow

Berserker is coming out in 2 days, so I figured I’d better get back to writing these book summaries. Click here to read Part 1 of the recap series.

The Struggle was Real

So. Wolf’s Bane…more like Dyane’s Bane. Because that’s exactly what it felt like to write this beast.

 

When I had finished The Purple Morrow, I was on a bit (a lot!) of a high. It was the second book I had written, but it was the only one of the two that was publish-worthy. And, after doing the run-around, research, trying and erring, I finally published the book. Yes!

So, now I was on to book 2, Wolf’s Bane. But this time around, I struggled with something I hadn’t before: fear of disappointing. The first book had been well-received, something that, especially for a first-timer, felt like a miracle. And after slaving away at Morrow for 2-3 years, I had come to love the characters. I wanted to write them a great story while not disappointing readers.

I’ll tell you one thing. If you’re writing a book, don’t worry about disappointing your readers. It’s impossible to focus on telling a great story when you’re filled with anxiety. Write the book that’s in your heart, trust your characters, and trust yourself. If you do those things, the book should take shape. Okay, that was more than one thing. But, in writing Bane, I found these points to be true. Once I stopped stressing and just wrote what I was feeling and what felt right for the characters, the book came together. I’m pleased and proud of the result. And, in the end, the book ended up being well-received to boot. 

http://www.picstopin.com

Another struggled I faced was figuring out how to write a ‘bridge’ book, meaning a book that bridges the events in book 1 and the trilogy’s conclusion. How do you keep the story interesting while not giving too much away? And how do you end the book so that it’s satisfying to the current story while not actually ending the overarching story prematurely?

That was tough, and I struggled with that for a while. In the end, I introduced new elements and characters, deepened the world-building and developed the magic/spiritual foundations of the story, while working hard on character development. I enjoyed bringing that wretch, Oren, to life so much, and the antagonistic yet nurturing relationship between Seylem and Kelen was a blast to write. Working on Jeru’s development was harder, as he’s my Every Man who needed a believable hero arc, something I’d never done before. So, yes, there were many, many challenges to overcome.

 

Interesting points:

Wolf’s Bane is the first time I had to develop a magic system in a story. I’d never done that before, and I was lucky to have a friend at the time who guided me through the process and let me bounce ideas off him.

I experimented with tone, lyrical style, and integrated elements of poetry. It probably sounds weird, but I allowed myself the freedom to tell the story using elements that I felt were needed to do it right. Of course, that made editing and rewrites a challenge, especially the poetry-inspired sections but thankfully, I had a poet-friend to edit that.

 

So, as I did for Morrow, I’ll include an excerpt. This is from Usurper, Chapter 2:

Oren hurried to the Naagra-Oni’s chambers. The hallway stretched straight as an arrow in front of him, and a lush runner spanned its length. The carpet was the Ministry’s gift to them, a measure to counter the perpetual cold clinging to the stone floors. Arched, stone doors, unadorned except for the iron rings bolted into their surfaces, lined the corridor on both sides. Other Naagra of more lowly stature slept behind them. Slept, or read. Or plotted. Naagra were always plotting. Oren would know, since he had been at it the longest. And, if he were so bold, which he was, he would even go so far as to claim to be the best at it.

Oren wrapped his cloak tighter around him against the cold, but the dampness permeated the four thick layers of linens and furs. It even crept through his tiger-seal boots, so that his toes began to tingle. Outside, the wind howled, battering the temple walls. Oren thought how ironic it was that the wind appeared to fight so hard to find a way in when all he wanted was to escape, even into the midst of a late-spring blizzard.

He hated Ambroze, the Naagra-Oni, hated his gloating smile and his silky voice that, at first, sounded pleasant, even friendly, until one discerned the venom lurking underneath. The Master Seer, though, never bothered to hide his disdain from Oren. It shone through his ice blue eyes and that cursed, mocking smile. Oren would much prefer to test himself against the tempest blowing outside than spend ten minutes with the man. Only curiosity, not to mention the command to present himself at Ambroze’s chambers exactly twenty minutes before, forced him to continue moving down the corridor, around the bend and up two flights of stairs into the north wing; the wing that had once been his.

“One day,” Oren swore as he swished down the darkened corridor, “I will take back my place, you cursed upstart! Then we’ll see who is left grinning with such disdain!” For now, Oren doubled his pace. He was still a subordinate–though the highest ranked subordinate–and it would not do to irritate the Master Seer.

He arrived at the massive double doors just as the gong struck the half hour mark. He would slow-boil Lapi in oil for making him late!

Oren shoved the great doors with all the strength contained in his wiry body. They groaned open. A blast of hot air met him, instantly turning to mist once it confronted the icy air from the hall. Oren waded through the cloud, emerging like some sort of wraith, and found himself standing in a great, round room. The back half was blocked off by a series of dark-coloured screens. The ceiling was hidden in gloom, but Oren knew it was adorned with the painted images of Anyul, the Snow god and his minions, Ice and Frost. They leered at him from above, shaming him into false humility as he stood before the Naagra-Oni. No windows pocked the walls of the room, and the torches were not lit. The only light came from dripping, black candles scattered throughout and the massive fires glowing in their hearths.

“You are late.” The words were clipped, and they cut like knives.

“My apologies, Naagra-Oni,” Oren answered, bristling. “I came as soon as I received your summons.”

 

If you enjoyed the summary and excerpt, leave me a message below. And don’t forget:  Berserker, the conclusion to the Rise of the Papilion trilogy, is out Thursday, March 8!

Essays

Two Things I Learned About Writing a Sequel

When it came to writing Wolf’s Bane, the sequel to The Purple Morrow, I was at a loss. Thrilled with the accomplishment of completing one book, I was eager to get cracking on the sequel. My enthusiasm dwindled, however, when I faced reality.

WolfsBane_Cover_2015_smashwords (1)

Just how do you go about writing a sequel?

It’s possible that nowadays there is a lot of information on the subject, but at the time, about 2 years ago, my searches came up nil. I asked around some of the writing groups I was a part of and scanned the internet, but ultimately I decided to do what I usually do, which is make it up as I went along. This post is for those of you who, like me at the time, are looking for somewhere to begin.

So, a billion rewrites later Wolf’s Bane is finished. It was a long and tough road to get it done. Here are some of the things I learned along the way:

    • Just because you wrote one book doesn’t mean the second will be a breeze. Writing is fun but it is hard. We do it because it’s something we enjoy and we look forward to the finished project. However, each book is its own entity, and just because you figured out how to wrangle that first beast to the ground doesn’t mean the next one will lie down and roll over for you.

steer

My challenges were many, but the one that stands out right now is trying to figure out how to write a ‘bridge’ book, basically a story that connects the events of the first to the eventual third book. The dilemma was balance. The bridge book has the job of continuing the story readers fell in love with in book 1 yet it couldn’t give away too much information or wrap up too much plot or my final book wouldn’t have punch. That, or by telling too much story, I’d end up with two-books instead of three.

scales

Also, it had to be satisfying. It’s one thing to ask people to read a book, it’s another to ask people to read an ‘in-between’ book. Really, by the end of book 1, readers are salivating for more but we’ve left them with what is essentially an unfinished story. Knowing that book 2 will be another unfinished story, I thought it was important to make sure that it was worth their time. I felt the story had to feel familiar yet present fresh ideas and twists, rewarding readers with a fulfilling experience, which would hopefully entice them to pick up the third installment when it comes out. That’s a tall order.

happy-face

In the end, I delved into world building, developing new and familiar people groups, their cultures and histories in order to emphasize how the past and the present affect the characters and their choices, which influences the overall stakes. I also worked on deeper character development and the addition of plot twists and big revelations to keep it interesting. Bane is a book that solidifies the story begun in book one, reveals more of what is really going on and sets up the events leading up to the final conflict and resolution in book three. Sounds easier than it is, which is why it took about 2 years to get it done.

    • It’s not so easy to know how much of the other book(s) to include. I wasn’t able to get a clear answer on this point either. People I spoke to had different answers. Some write sequels without any summaries of the past book at all and others devote sections of to resume what went on before. I tried both tactics on different occasions to expected results. In the summary-less version, readers claimed they could not understand what was going on, in the summary-rife version readers complained about info dumping bogging down the story. So I compromised. Whenever I came to a place I thought explanation was needed, I wrote a line or two referencing an event in book 1 and then moved on. My hope is that for those who had read book 1 but forgot a detail, it would refresh their memory, and for new readers that they might be curious enough about book 1 to pick up a copy of Morrow to read. For the enjoyment of having a ‘full story’ experience, of course. 🙂

So, I’m curious to know how you have handled writing a sequel. How did you go about it? What tips and suggestions do you have to share?