2022 Commitments

‘YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE EXTREME, JUST CONSISTENT.’

2022 quote of the year.

I love the start of a new year.

In my mind, it’s a perfect reset. The morning I wake up on January first, it’s a brand new year, a brand new chapter; the moment I can start from scratch.

‘This year will be different,’ I always exclaim. ‘I’ll be more motivated, more productive, more inspired than last year.’ And while this hasn’t exactly rung true over the past few years, there’s at least been a little improvement.

I struggled a lot to maintain my motivation throughout 2021. There are probably tons of reasons why, but I knew it was important that I re-evaluated my working life to fix the issue in the future. If I want to be a full-time, published author I need to start working like one. So 2022 is really all about creating that routine and forging that mindset.

I always give myself a yearly theme- something I want to work on for the next twelve months, based on how I operated the year before. I self-reflect about what worked and what didn’t, where I want to improve and what I want to change for the future.

2019 was ‘The Year of Me.’

2020 was ‘Hindsight 2020.’

2021 was ‘Reset, Renew, Repeat.’

For 2022, my yearly theme is: CREATE. Routine / Morale / Stories

A bit of a mouthful, and not as fluid as previous years. But for me, it works.

I want to create routine. I don’t have one. I pretty much write whenever I feel like it, and most of the time, I don’t. So giving myself a routine and a schedule will help me maintain consistency with my writing and ensure I get other important things done as well. Like chores.

I want to create morale. I am very much always down on myself about things I can’t control, especially those times I start comparing myself to others or when things just don’t seem to happen for me. I need to retain a confidence within myself and work on my self-esteem within social media.

I want to create stories. This isn’t a major change from any other year, but in 2022 I want to focus on the stories that I already have. The ones I still feel excited about after the first draft. I have querying plans, and they deserve my full attention to get them to where I want them to be.

I’ve also decided that in 2022, I am not going to have goals. The word is too strong, and I struggled with them this year. Instead, each month I’m going to have a set of things for me to ‘focus,’ on, and a ‘spotlight,’ which will be my main focus. That way, I’m not setting myself any expectations that I might not be able to fulfill if I’m unable to find the motivation. I don’t feel bad about not completing a ‘goal,’ because there are none.

Step two is to stop writing new projects. This was in fact a goal for 2021 which I promptly abandoned in order to write the entirety of my Middle Grade five book series. But this year, I mean it. I’m excited about the novels that I’ve already written and I’m excited to move forward with them. 2022 is all about rewriting and improving what I have instead of getting distracted with yet another shiny, new idea.

Step three is to think about consistency and routine. I tend to work in short bursts- writing lots for a few days, then nothing for the next week and repeat. But how much I’m working isn’t whats important, or at least it shouldn’t be. It doesn’t matter if I wrote 10,000 words in one day. What matters is a consistent output. I currently operate as such: spend a week not writing, get a sudden burst of energy, overwork the next few days because I spent so long not working, then suffer mild burnout and spend another week not working. By establishing a clear routine for life and writing, I’ll be able to stay motivated for longer stretches of time, steer off the burnout and maintain a consistent work flow.

What are your plans for 2022? Have you got anything excited planned for the new year?

Good thoughts and happy writing.

My Writing Trackers

I write. Like, a lot. I’m not at Hamilton levels yet, I procrastinate way too much for that. But I’m always working on a novel. Or two. Or three. I spent years at the beginning of my writing journey just floundering around the process, trying to remember what I had just done, or what I needed to do next when I revisited a project, and more than once I completely forgot exactly what I was doing. So I started tracking my writing progress for each of my projects, so I knew exactly where I was at any given time.

I track my writing in two main ways. First is with Scrivener itself. I love using Scrivener, and while I don’t fully utilize all of its features, (and trust me, there are a lot,) the ones I do use work well for my writing process.

It has this handy little ‘outliner,’ view which lists all of your sub-documents within a folder and all of the attributes you’ve given them. They all get labelled ‘to do,’ before I start, and when I finish a certain scene or chapter, I’ll re-label it as ‘first draft.’

Abingdon House 1 Scrivener outliner view.

A quick look in this view will easily tell me what I have completed, and what I still need to do, which keeps me on track.

Next, is my project time tracker. It’s fairly simple, with just two columns; one for the date, and one for what I did for that project on that day.

My Bullet Journal Writing Tracker

This is my favourite way to track the progress of my writing journey, and is so useful if you want to learn more about your writing routines.

This tracker gives me a great insight into how long it takes me to complete a draft. How long does it take me to plan, outline, redraft and revise. It lets me see what my most productive days were, or when I took a break or where I seemed to struggle. Things I can use to make helpful changes to the way I write which will benefit me mentally and physically in the future.

It can show me when burnout hits, when I work less or more, and how motivated / productive I am during the weeks. From there, I can figure out what went wrong to avoid it in the future. It can also help to build towards habits and routine, if you’re into that sort of thing. Plus, it’s great for those working on multiple projects. You can keep a tighter track of which projects you’re spending a lot of time on, and tell you where you left off after you spend a lot of time away from one.

In 2022 I intend to take this even further. My initial aim was to record every single part of the writing process- brainstorming, outlining, drafting and beyond, but my habits quickly settled with just recording the actual drafting phase. I’m planning to go back to my original tracking- every single step, as part of my goals for next year.

What ways you do you track your writing progress? I’m going to guess spreadsheets.

Good thoughts and happy writing.

Writing a First Draft

First drafts are terrible. There, I said it.

I’ve gone back and forth over the years with how I wrote my first drafts. The very first novel that I finished took me almost three years to complete. The second took one year, and since then the majority of my other drafts were written in one month- usually during (Camp) NaNoWriMo.

I have written a novel in just seven and three days before, but that’s another story.

No matter when I wrote my novels, I always seemed to stumble over the same issue. I would reach a certain moment within the plot, and get stuck. You know the ones- complicated battle scenes, the ones where emotion reigns supreme, or the ones which are just super boring to write.

I struggled with the final battle scene in my first novel for months. I had no idea where I needed to go after chapter 8 in my second novel and floundered for weeks. I always reached a certain point and never seemed to be able to push further, because I just couldn’t with that scene. It got a little easier when I realised I could just skip what I couldn’t write and go back to it later. But the problem then was, I would have to go back to it later. And the problem just occurred at a different time.

In the end I just accepted that there would be certain parts of my novel which just sucked to write, no matter how interesting I tried to make every chapter. But then something changed.

It started with OSASAOIT, aka Project Mystic. Instead of my usual Save the Cat outline, I tried the Katytastic 3 Act, 9 Block, 27 chapter Method. To make the outlining even easier, I split each chapter into two separate scenes and got to work writing the first scene, which I had had in my head for weeks. I don’t know why, but for some reason I asked one of my friends to pick the scene I should work on next. And then I asked again, and again. And so, my favourite drafting method was born. From that point, every time I finished one scene, I would ask friends in the writing community to pick another.

And I couldn’t say no, or change my mind. If a scene was picked, I had to write it, no matter what. Boring talky scene I wasn’t in the mood for, epic fight scene that I knew would take me all day, that one romance scene I put in, writing deity knows why, that I didn’t want to write ever. It became a sort of challenge at that point to get the scene done. A promise between writing friends that I would complete the scene they so nicely picked for me.

When no one was around, or I was on a roll, I would use my scene box- may the odds be ever in my favour. My writing sessions usually start with me fishing around with as much flair as possible, Effie Trinket style because I can, before I draw out a piece of paper and unfold it to reveal my next scene.

Somehow, the combination of scene by scene, and being unable to choose what I wrote, actually helped me write. Not better, but more easily that I had in the past. I still haven’t quite figured out what about this method helps, but somehow it does. And until it doesn’t, this is how I will write my first drafts going forward.

It results in a plot-hole ridden, confused, chaotic mess once I’m done. But what first draft doesn’t? It’s nothing I can’t rewrite, which I’d be doing anyway. And you wouldn’t believe the amount of sub-plots which just pop up in random scenes because inspiration hit.

I know that outlining in scenes helps to break down the novel into smaller pieces, which in turns makes it easier to manage. Which works out great for me. Yes I have more to write, (35 scenes as opposed to say, 25 chapters,) but they don’t take as long and I only need to focus on one event at a time.

Being unable to pick my scenes means that I’m more conscious about the fact that I need to put something interesting/exciting into each one to keep me from struggling.

And it’s fun. It becomes more than just writing my first draft. It keeps me involved within the writing community, it helps them get excited about what I’m writing, (which is always a plus,) and it helps keep me excited and motivated to write. And the latter is possibly the most important point of all.

Let me know how you draft your novel. Do you have any tricks that help keep you motivated?

Good thoughts and happy writing.