Farewell 2018

Farewell 2018

I admit, 2018 feels like a blur. The kind where you dig your fingers into a project, get super involved and look up an hour later to find that, actually, three weeks have passed.

I set a lot of ambitious goals for 2018, despite my focus on healthy work habits. That meant accepting from the beginning that I was unlikely to check everything off my list. I made a lot of tough decisions, moved a lot of deadlines, and practiced taking care of myself when I needed it.

And somehow, I still managed to nail most of my writing goals! I know – my jaw is also on the floor!

My Writing Goals for 2018

~Finish Symphony of the Stars and send it to beta readers
~Polish Life is But a Dream
~Re-write/edit Song of the Spheres (book two of my space opera) and send it to beta readers
~Write Soul of the Sun (book three of my space opera)
~Write, edit and publish Book Three of Eternity’s Empire
~Do 500,000 words of work throughout the year (writing, editing, planning, blogging)
~Make 365,000 of those words of work new words

Finishing Symphony of the Stars was a left-over goal from 2017. I didn’t realize how huge the re-write for this series was going to be until I was neck deep in it. Somewhere along the line, I was forced to accept that each book in the trilogy is actually a trilogy of its own – which means I’m writing a nine book series instead of a three book series. In January, I hoped I could finish Symphony of the Stars by the end of February, but it actually took until halfway through March to reach a satisfying conclusion.

Luckily, I was able to send it to my betas in short order, so that goal can be checked off the list!

Polishing Life is But a Dream was a breeze in comparison. Of course, this was a late-stage draft and feedback from my betas indicated it didn’t need a ton of tweaking. I think my biggest 2018 decision related to this series was to go ahead and self-publish. More and more, it’s looking like the best model for me. Which means, hopefully, I’ll be doing one last quick pass on this pair early next year, and then you’ll be able to get your hands on it!

What Else Did I Finish?

I started the re-write of Song of the Spheres, the sequel to Symphony of the Stars, at the beginning of May. I originally hoped to have the new trilogy finished in four months. Having learned from my previous experience, however, I knew I’d be lucky to finish by the end of the year. This was an intensive edit. In many ways, this series was far less polished than its predecessor. There were a lot more sections to add, a lot of threads that had been dropped, and a lot of little details that didn’t quite fit.

In the end, I used a different model for the Song of the Spheres re-write than I used for Symphony of the Stars. In the latter case, I decided to focus on each book individually, editing the work to my satisfaction before moving on to the next piece. I did this to ensure that each installment would feel like a standalone story. But I had so many details to add to Song of the Spheres, I had to get all the way through the series before I knew which elements needed adjustment. This meant that I spent May through mid-September writing. Then I spent mid-September through the first week of November editing.

Overall, I’m happy with how this project has worked out and I’m excited to see what my betas have to say!

What about the third book of Eternity’s Empire, you ask? If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that Secrets of the Past, the third book in the Eternity’s Empire Series, went live in both e-format and paperback on December 10th. Compared to my other projects this year, Eternity’s Empire was a breath of fresh air and I’m excited to see where it takes me.

What Didn’t Get Finished?

My original – and insane – plan for 2018 involved planning and writing Soul of the Sun – the final installment in the Celestial Serenade series – by the end of the year. I wasn’t planning to edit this one, so I hoped I could write it in three – four months. IF I managed to clear all my other goals for the year, that was. I expected I could outline this book in five days. It took almost a month to get my plans sorted. That should be the first indication this story is way bigger than I ever believed.

I did not get Soul of the Sun finished this year, but I’m totally okay with that! I got a solid start on it, and got almost halfway through the series. Which is more work than I ever actually believed I’d fit in. It should be relatively easy to polish this one off during the first two – three months of 2019. Then it will simmer for a few months while I work on other things.

What About Productivity Goals?

You may remember, when I set my goal at 500,000 words of work for the year, I did so because I thought I had hit my productivity limit. I just didn’t see how I could outstrip my progress in 2018.

Except I hit that goal by the end of October. With at least a novel and a half left to write, plus a plan to start getting ahead on next year’s goals.

I chose to add writing 365,000 words worth of new material to this goal, because that would mean I wrote an average of 1,000 words per day throughout the year (even though I don’t write every day). This was a reasonably comfortable goal, since I wrote 376,000 words worth of new material in 2017. What I didn’t expect was to write half again the number of my goal.

Lots of people asked how I increased my productivity this year. The truth is, I don’t really know. I’d like to think that better time management played a big role. I certainly think my ritual of pre-writing (which I’ll talk about in another post) helped. But as to the rest, I’m as floored as anyone else. I’m pretty sure I’ve been body-snatched and replaced with someone competent.

My final word tallies for the year were: 659,989 Words of Work. And 540,042 words of that were new material.

What About Marketing Goals?

For 2018 I set the following marketing goals:
~Reach 1,000 Newsletter Subscribers
~Learn more
~Devote some money to advertising
~Achieve a modest monthly income

How did I do?

Not great.

The problem most of these goals is that they’re vague. I did set a secret dollar amount that I wanted to hit for monthly income, but I didn’t reach it. Nor did I hit my goal of obtaining 1,000 newsletter subscribers.

I will give myself credit; I tried to market in 2018. More seriously than I have in other years. I did a newsletter building promo through Instafreebie, and it did add over 100 new names to my list. I also sent more regular newsletters to my subscribers to keep them appraised of new releases and devoted a significant amount of blog time to those same releases. Which is far more than I have done in previous years.

I also devoted some money to advertising this year, outside of Amazon ads, which I have dabbled with in the past. And I did receive a decent return on some of those investments. But a few duds early in the year scared me off my original intention of spending marketing dollars every month, and that definitely had a negative impact on my overall goals.

Did I learn more? Absolutely. But I think the biggest thing I learned is that I still have a lot to learn. And that if I want to learn, I need to get down to the nitty gritty and get my hands dirty. I’ve figured out how to write. I’ve figured out how to manage my projects. Now I need to figure out how to sell my work. I’m sure I can do it, though I don’t expect it to be easy.

What About My Health-Related Goals?

They were almost an afterthought at the end of last year’s goal post, but I mentioned wanting to set more reasonable goals, take more breaks, respect my limits and look after my neglected health in 2018.

I’m proud to say that I achieved these goals in a big way. It was a struggle, certainly, but it was worth it. I could probably still stand to take more breaks, spend fewer nights pushing to catch up, and less time fretting over vacation days. But after a year and a half of effort, I’m doing regular yoga practices again. I’m eating healthy. I’ve lost weight. And I’ve finally managed to work the nerve pinch out of my left arm.

None of these things are minor. All of them probably contribute to my increase in productivity in some form or fashion. Prioritizing the optimization of my work time and learning to make choices that resulted in less stress may have made it more difficult to achieve my marketing goals. But, now that I’ve learned to look after myself, I should be able mitigate marketing-related stress in the future. I’ve already started adjusting my schedule to allow for more study and practice of marketing techniques.

This is usually where I list my goals for the New Year, but I had so much to say about 2018, I think it’s best to leave those for next time. Needless to say, I’m excited to see where 2019 will take me. I think there are good things on the horizon!

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