Reporting Actual Progress

Keeping track of my progress, reporting my progress to you every month is an important part of my process. The year, 2022, is galloping away from the starting line. It’s the end of January and this is my progress report. After a very long and difficult 2021, I’m happy that there is actual progress in this progress report.

Intentions

Instead of goals or resolutions, I use intentions. You can miss a goal. You probably break most resolutions. But an intention is a focus. When life gets in the way of your plan, take care of that event or disturbance, intending to return to your primary plan. Every morning begins with a renewed intention. 

In order to track activities accurately, I divide my intentions into four large “buckets:” Making, managing, marketing, and home.

Making

Making is the process where words get on paper or the digital facsimile. I spent 68% of my work time on making. That’s not quite back where I’d like it to be, but it’s much closer than it’s been. Happily, I put more words on paper this month than any of the previous 15 months.

My intention was to be done with this beta-reader driven revision of If I Should Die by today. I came very close. Two or three days of double-checking punctuation and spelling, and If I Should Die will fly to my editor.

I wrote twelve out of fourteen blog posts. Several of them received a lot of comments and attention. Thank you. Story Time Reviews Valedictorian, Beware of Wet Footprints, How to Create a Safe Place in Your Mind, Story Time Reviews Operation Haystack, and 10 Warning Signs You’re Doing too Much ranked in the top five posts visited this month.

Managing

This bucket is huge in scope. It covers anything that is not creating words (blog posts, stories, or newsletters) or marketing. There are two big news items in the managing area this month.

First is that I finished the first stage of redesigning my website. It takes a lot of time to design and implement that design. Though most of the redesign time happened in December, I spent many hours on it this month as well. There’s still much to be done, but I can do it in smaller bites.

The second big news item is the new covers for the books in the Fellowship Dystopia series. Haven’t seen them? You can see them on my home page or on their individual pages. And of course, changing out the covers isn’t complete either. Having new book covers means new bookmarks and webpages and loading the new covers on all the bookseller sites and social media sites. Of course, I’m not quite finished with this either.

Marketing

Out of necessity, marketing got the short end this month. However, that will change over the coming months.

Home

I’m in the middle of way too many projects around the house. A little progress here and there means the upheaval can be ugly to look at and difficult to live with. Remind me, please, that the tortoise won the race.

New and Renewed Intentions

February will be a busy month. When I receive my manuscript back from my editor, I will turn my focus back on If I Should Die. Once I’ve incorporated recommended changes, I’ll set up a preorder, send the manuscript off the proofreader, and send the ARC to my team of advanced readers.

In between editors, I’ll start work on the third book in the series.

Redesigning is in my blood these days. In my *spare* February moments, I will remove everything in my office, install new shelves, tops, equipment, and a new sit-stand desk. I’ll be taking pictures and sharing them with my newsletter subscribers. Yes, newsletter subscribers, you will get a newsletter soon.

I’m taking a marketing course for authors, an area where I need lots of help.

There’s cleaning and rearranging planned for the “Home” bucket, too.

What I Learned

My focus for January was to finishing the book, so I only attended three short webinars this month.

Two webinars I attended taught new ways to use some specific web tools. The third one was on using touch in my writing. Not only did I learn new ways to write, I enjoyed learning from one of my favorite teachers, Margie Lawson.

My biggest lesson over the past year hits home again as I mark the first anniversary of my husband’s death.

If you’ve loved someone deeply, you will grieve deeply after that person is gone. But gone isn’t forgotten and love is not fragile. Love’s embrace may change, but it endures—always.

What do you think of my actual progress in this Progress Report? Did you make actual progress this month or are the pandemic or other stressors weighing you down?


Image Credits

Top Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Middle Photo by Alexey Turenkov on Unsplash

Final Photo by Visual Stories || Micheile on Unsplash

Doing What I Love Takes the Sting Out

Doing what I love takes the sting out. Much of it anyway. Not all. The death of my husband overwhelmed me and impacted what I have accomplished so far this year. It’s been messy. I’ve not met many of my intentions. But tracking what I have accomplished and reporting on it here reminds me of what I have accomplished. Takes the focus off what I haven’t done.

Do what you love, and do it well – that’s much more meaningful than any metric.

Kevin Systrom

Intentions

Instead of goals or resolutions, I use intentions. You can miss a goal. You probably break most resolutions. But an intention is a focus. When life impedes your plan, take care of that event or disturbance, intending to return to your primary plan. Every morning begins with a renewed intention.

Making

I didn’t finish the revision on my work-in-progress as soon as I had hoped. But I finished the first set of revisions on If I Should Die. The book is out to my Beta Readers. 

Beta readers are voluntary. They understand that this is not a polished draft. They comb the manuscript for inconsistencies, slow pacing, or other story problems. I usually give my beta readers a 3-4 week window to read and get their comments back to me. When I have all their comments, I review the comments. I consider all comments carefully, especially if more than one person made similar comments. After a week of brainstorming how to use those comments to improve the story, I revise the manuscript. 

This is doing what I love. I love writing, but unlike many authors, I also love revisions. It’s exciting and satisfying to shape the story into the best reader experience I can make it.

Managing

Busy, busy, busy. Attending the 20Books Conference in Vegas kept me running most of the month. I learned a lot of best practices, tips and tricks and small but significant details of publishing. I’ve spent a large portion of time since my return making plans based on what I learned.

I made calls. Sent emails. And I bought software and tech stuff that will (I hope) improve my productivity and health in this very sedentary life. (More about those later.)

I posted my second blog post on the Writers in the Storm blog. Those posts seemed to increase visits to my blog. 

Posts on my own blog have slowed considerably this month. I planned not to blog while in Vegas, but other days were unplanned misses.

Due to all the extra activities, I also missed most of my virtual write in meetings and my critique group meetings. 

Marketing

I’m continuing to refine my marketing efforts on Amazon. These efforts have increased impressions received on those ads. Hopefully, more sales will follow.

Home

This area of intentions has also been crazy busy. Cleaning and reorganizing, selling and donating, and strolling down memory lane are a large part of my non-writing time.

Of course, I still enjoy time with my grandson every week. 

Mea culpa. I completely ignored the fact that during the last few years of my husband’s illness and then the pandemic, my poor dogs had only ridden too and from the dreaded vet’s office. SIGH. They have forgotten the joy of riding in the car.

Events

I’ve already blogged about Las Vegas. 

My son and daughter-in-law hosted Thanksgiving dinner this year. I ate too much. And I enjoyed it. I also enjoyed game time with the family. (The toddler made a game of running in and out of the room where we were playing.) It was a low-key affair and just what I needed this year.

What I Learned

Oh my. I could fill a book with what I learned during this month. No, I won’t bore you with the details. However, in the months ahead, you will notice a few changes around here.

This is part of doing what I love. I love to learn new things, try new things, experience new things. Between the pandemic and my grief, I haven’t experienced the lift of doing what I love as much as usual. 

Intentions for Next Month

I could fill a book… Yeah. I bite off way more than I can chew. Unfortunately, as an independent author, there are things that are time sensitive. And many pieces of writing and publishing must happen in a certain order.

Intentions for Making in December include drafting an outline for book 3 in the Fellowship Dystopia Series, revising my website and, at long last, republishing my books with new covers. 

I am hosting on the Writers in the Storm blog this month. 

And besides the two major holidays, I have a trip to Memphis planned, and three birthdays to celebrate. Oh, and the trip means I’m taking short drives with the dogs to help them remember car trips can be fun.

Yup. It’s going to be another busy-bee month. I’ve got big intentions and I know that most of my intentions will extend into 2022.

I am Grateful

It’s the end of November. Thanksgiving is over, but my cup of gratitude is overflowing. I’m grateful to be doing what I love. And my gratitude to my readers, my friends, and my family is unending. You all have enriched my life. Thank you.

What are you most grateful for at the end of this month?

What intentions do you have for next month?

Image Credits

Top Image by 3844328 from  Pixabay 

Middle Photo by Marije Woudsma on Unsplash

Last Photo by Ephraim Mayrena on Unsplash

Progress is Invisible Unless You Track It

Making progress is invisible unless you track it. Especially when you’re a slow writer or working on a long-term project, you need to track your progress. Evaluating your progress is essential to learning how to improve your processes. And making my monthly reports to you keeps me on task.

Image of a black and white target with a red dart perfectly centered on the red bull's eye but how do you know when you've hit a project's target? For long-term projects, progress is invisible unless you track it.

How To Track Progress

My way involves a calendar journal and spreadsheets. Breaking a task, like writing a novel, down into its smallest parts helps keep the creator from being overwhelmed. Focusing only on the small parts can make the creator feel as if they work and work without making progress. 

The way I combat the disillusionment of I’m-not-getting-anything-done, is to track my time, word counts, and project “steps.” You can use your calendar, a tally sheet, or a day planner. Anything that helps you keep track of what you’ve accomplished and what you need to do next will work. The Write Practice has a basic post about tracking progress for writers.

Intentions vs. Goals

I use intentions rather than goals. Intentions allow business to give way to life and life to give way to business. I also use three broad baskets to describe what I do: Making (anything creative), Managing (any non-writing and non-marketing duties), Marketing (from creating ads to attending marketing events), and Home (all activities not related to creating or selling books—from appointments to yard care).

Making

I’m delighted to report progress! More words, more chapters revised, and more time on the making and creating side of business. I have not finished If I Should Die. SIGH. I’m seeing a glimmer of light at the end of this tunnel. I doubt I’ll finish it next month but am hopeful I will finish this draft and send it to beta readers at the end of September or first of October.

Managing

No power outages this month, thank goodness. I’ve made progress in this area too. In the managing area particularly, making progress is invisible unless you track it. Thanks to my spreadsheet, I can see that I’ve caught up on several tasks. Not totally caught up, but I was nearly a year behind so there’s a lot of little things to get done.

One thing I’ve added back into my day is listening to podcasts about writing and marketing and history. Feels good to do that again.

Marketing

Fortunately, it takes very little effort to keep Amazon ads running. New ads on Amazon take a time and work. I’ve met my intentions in the Marketing area. And I’ve benefited from making a few tweaks I learned about in a podcast.

Home

Photograph of the living room of an old, abandoned house--a pedal driven sewing machine, a dining table, and upholstered chairs are thick with dust--progress is invisible unless you track it--in this place, I think it might be visible.

There’s even been progress on the home front. This has been the most neglected area during the past five months, so any progress is progress. My vertigo has lessened significantly. I am experiencing more and more time when I have no vertigo. Yay!

After a half-day of mini-drama, they delivered my new washing machine. Miracle of miracles, I can complete all my laundry in a single day. Guess I needed one more than I knew. *Smile*

I spent half-a-day with two different couples I hadn’t seen in—gosh, a long time. We are all vaccinated and quite isolated. Visiting in person with them was a real treat.

Not only did I get some more of my husband’s things sorted, I gave some items to appropriate persons/organizations. So the house is a bit neater. While no one would say my house is neat and clean, the health department won’t kick me out… yet. (I haven’t reached the level of dust in the house pictured above.)

Events

Felt good enough I attended my weekly write in group and critique group two or three times this month.I also attended a dozen online classes focused on the writing business. 

Last Month & Last Year

I came extremely close to doubling my word count over last month. Yet, I’m still woefully behind in words written compared to July 2020. 

Between all that’s happened the first six months of this year and the fact that I’m revising, I’m counting this month as a win. Higher word counts will come in time, and will soar when I draft book three.

What I Learned

I started reading Robert McKee’s Dialogue: the Art of Verbal Action for the Page, Stage, and Screen. McKee has an interesting take on what functions as dialogue in a story. His view is that all parts of a story are dialogue. I have to agree in that all parts of a story are at least a dialogue with the reader. I’m eager to delve deeper into his insights.

At the beginning of the month I struggled with “the next chapter.” No matter what I wrote, it wasn’t as compelling as I want my stories to be. It took a few days, but I finally remembered to stop and go deeper into the viewpoint character’s mind and heart. Once I did that, the writing flowed.

Going Forward

Creative work comes first. That’s my focus. If I’m not putting story words on paper, I’m not myself. Off my game, I am morose and certain I’m spiraling in a negative direction. Tracking it, evaluating it monthly keeps me mindful of what I do. Reporting here keeps me honest about it. In many creative endeavors, making progress is invisible unless you track it. Do you track the progress of your creative endeavors?

A Never Give Up-Never Surrender Attitude

It’s the end of June and time to evaluate progress for the first half of 2021. These have been among the top five most difficult months of my life. I’ve always had a never give up-never surrender attitude. That has kept me moving forward, though at a much slower pace than normal.

Photo of a dart board with darts in the second ring--not one bulls eye but a never give up-never surrender attitude keeps me going.

Intentions

Instead of goals or resolutions, I use intentions. You can miss a goal. You probably break most resolutions. But an intention is a focus. When life gets in the way of your plan, take care of that event or disturbance intending to return to your primary plan. Every morning begins with a renewed intention.

Making

I started working on the second draft of the last half of the book at the end of January.

As of today, day 188 of the year 2021, I’ve averaged 2.6 house per day for 125 days working on If I Should Die. The number of words produced are slightly less than half the number I produced the first half of last year.

The last half of my first draft is always full of plot holes and snags and snarls. In five months, I’ve rearranged chapters and plugged holes, untangled snarls, and smoothed snags—at least in the outline. Much of that work is behind the scenes, so to speak. The reader will never see it. And that re-visioning always requires adjusting details in many early chapters.

It’s taken half the year and I’ve only gotten a quarter of the way through the second half of the book. Disappointing, but under the circumstances, I’m trying to be satisfied with having any progress at all.

Managing

image of a white non-gendered figure juggling bowling pins.

Many my intentions for managing my writing business have fallen undone.

I revised the blurb for My Soul to Keep and sales have slightly improved. Thanks to all you who’ve reviewed the book. And a special thanks to those who help promote it. (I see you!)

Marketing

My small efforts to market my books have continued. Those efforts have given me information I hope to use to good effect when book two comes out.

Home

colorful image of child-like drawings of houses and trees.

Life happens. That’s why I use intentions rather than goals.

It has been 140 days since my husband died. Forty-five of those days I’ve had vertigo. The symptoms were severe at first and are slowly improving. My physical therapist says I’m one of the “lucky ones” whose case is “stubborn.” I wouldn’t call it lucky. Both those events have affected impacted my concentration and energy levels. SIGH.

Four unexpected problems surfaced this month. Two separate plumbing issues took my time and lots of money. Two separate power outages reduced my computer time.

In an attempt to focus on my writing, the bare minimum has been accomplished in the area of intentions for home. I’m surprisingly okay with that.

My immunity day (the day when my COVID-19 vaccinations were fully effective) was April 14th. I managed to get out a couple of times before the vertigo hit. I hope to do so again soon. But until all COVID variants are gone, I will be using social distancing and masks in crowds or with unvaccinated people.

Events

If you wish to know more about the biggest event during the last six months, read my grievous loss or my first ninety days. You can also read a little about my vertigo.

I did manage to participate in two panels for our local science fiction convention, ConQuest, which was virtual this year.

In the past month, the area gas company replaced the gas line from the main line to inside my house. When they turned the gas back on, my clothes dryer would not work. Since it (and my washer) was about twenty years old, I took the opportunity and bought a new appliances. And now, I can finish laundry in a timely manner.

Last Month & Last Year

Typically, I like to compare my progress to past progress. But the past six months have been unlike any other six months in my life. Therefore, a comparison isn’t helpful.

What I Learned

I’m learning to give myself permission not to do it all—and trying to be okay with that.

Joslyn Chase introduced me to Euphonics for Writers by Rayne Hall. It focuses on choosing words with sounds that support the mood, tension, and or character trait the writer wishes to express.

My friend, Dora Furlong, uses Scrivener in ways that hadn’t occurred to me. I now have a Fellowship Dystopia Series Bible in a Scrivener file and a collection of tips for writing in a Scrivener file. Those two files took time to collate, but have saved me bundles of time since then.

Looking Forward

I will finish If I Should Die. Look for future posts about some of my research and eventually a cover reveal. 

I still have a lot of my husband’s things to sort, store, or sell. Many items will find new homes through the Vietnam Veterans of America organization.

A never give up-never surrender attitude will continue to help me move forward. If you use that phrase and attitude, remember it doesn’t mean ignore yourself. And it doesn’t mean be perfect. Persevere, plod onward, follow your own pace…the journey is as important (more perhaps) than the destination. How has the first half of 2021 been for you?

The Ups and Down of Progress Continues in May

Can you believe it’s almost June? I feel as if I’ve lost 18 months. I’ll bet some of you feel the same. We’re suspended between pandemic and post-pandemic. And the ups and downs of progress continues in May.

image of a dart board with a yellow dart between the first and second ring--the ups and downs of progress means close but no bullseye

If you’re new to these monthly progress reports, I use intentions and general categories for tracking tasks I intend to accomplish.

Making

Progress remains slow, but it continues. Several scenes in If I Should Die were not working. I’ve rewritten those scenes many times but finally found the right one last week. That means more rewriting, but I know the story will be stronger for it.

Managing

I’m keeping up with the basics at this point. I have plans and materials to rearrange and enlarge my workspace. That project is on hold for a little while. (See Home—The Room is Spinning.)

Marketing

My low-key marketing efforts slowed this month but are continuing to generate sales. Sales makes me happy. Thank you readers!

Events

I’ll be taking part in ConQuest 52, our local science fiction convention Memorial Day weekend, today through Sunday. It’s virtual this year. If you don’t have any plans, check it out. Guests of Honor include authors, Becky Chambers and Dan Wells, and artist, Toni Taylor.

Home — The Room is Spinning

One of the primary reasons I have gotten little done is that I’ve had a flare up of BPPV (Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo). It’s a disconcerting disorder of the inner ear that affects one’s sense of balance. For me, it feels and looks as if the room is spinning around me. To read, write, focus, or even walk is challenging. It will get better, is already better, but it takes time.

What I Learned

I’ve used dizziness and vertigo interchangeably. But there’s a difference between the two words. Dizziness is when you feel you are spinning. Vertigo is when you feel the room is spinning around you. Who knew?

Next Month

I’m working on increasing my productivity. That means butt in chair and typing or dictating story words first. Like I said last month, progress is progress, but I plan to get back to my normal production levels. When? Well, I will not wait for my life to get back to normal. I’m putting my butt in the chair and finishing this gosh-darn story. How about you? What ups and downs of progress have you had this month?