How to Keep Going When Your Goals Seem Impossible (& A #NANOWRIMO UPDATE)

How to Keep Going When Your Goals Seem Impossible (& A #NANOWRIMO UPDATE)

We're eleven days into November and National Novel Writing Month.

A lot of writers get behind right around now or (like me) maybe you never got started for whatever reason.

For me, it was already being behind on a ton of things plus getting sick and then both of my kids getting sick one right after the other, plus last-minute editing work (which I was thankful for, actually).

So it’s been almost a month of dealing with all that, and, honestly, feeling like I’ve been behind the entire year.

My Absolute Best Tips for Outlining Your Novel & Creating a Story That Works

My Absolute Best Tips for Outlining Your Novel & Creating a Story That Works

Whether you’re in this November or not, I have some amazing tips for you today all about story structure and outlining your next novel.

NaNoWriMo has snuck up on me once again.

I thought I had at least a week left to put something together, but nope! We are less than a week away from November 1st. I have lots of ideas on paper and in my head but nothing super concrete yet, so I am now in scrambling mode because I definitely want to take part.

November is one of my favorite parts of the year because of this 50,000 word challenge and how much progress I can make in just 30 days :)

But it's important you go in knowing what you're doing story-wise.

top Resources on Outlining & Story Structure

First, I want to share four favorite resources for story structure and outlining (thanks to my friend, Thomas, for pointing out an extra one!).

Why You Should Totally Do #NaNoWriMo This Year (And What You Need To Do Now To Be Ready)

Why You Should Totally Do #NaNoWriMo This Year (And What You Need To Do Now To Be Ready)

Whether you’ve already announced it to the world that you’re all in this November or you just stumbled onto NaNoWriMo and what it is and you’ve never written anything before, I’m going to share with you:

  • why you should definitely consider participating this year
  • why NaNoWriMo is awesome, and
  • what you should be doing to start strong on November 1st.

I first did NaNoWriMo in 2011. If this isn’t your first time with me, you’ve probably heard this story before.

I was student teaching, I was about seven months pregnant, and I was in college. It was my first time writing a book, finally, after tons of false starts, and I did it.

I wrote 50,000 words and crossed the finish line. That book was complete garbage, but it was the beginning for me and how I eventually became an indie author.

After 2011, I didn’t participate in NaNoWriMo again until 2014. I was a teacher during that time. Enough said.

But ever since 2014, I’ve written 50,000 words each November to create a 4-year streak now.

Which I didn’t even know about until the NaNoWriMo people sent me an email, like, are you signing up this year or what because you’ve got this 4-year streak going on? So how can I not do it now, right?

More about that later. First I want to talk about why you should totally do NaNoWriMo this year.

2015 in Review: What I Learned, Where I Failed, and How I Finally Started Making Money as a Writer

So 2015 is over, which means it’s time to reflect back on how we did with our goals during the year. Did we make as much progress as we had planned and hoped? Where did we fail and what can we learn from it? How can we make 2016 a better year? 

(Tip: Go back to your previous goals/progress updates and celebrate how far you’ve come! Here are my January 2013 postmy January 2014 post, and my January 2015 post. I can't believe how far I’ve come since then.)

Here were my 2015 goals:

Yearly Goals

Publish 2 more books (Unfailing Love and next book in Unbreakable Love series)
Write next book in Unbreakable Love series
Write YA fantasy book 1 (not fantasy but did write another YA book; well, like 95% done)
Kindle landing page/call to action (see setting up buckets below)
Get 20 reviews on each book (nope, but significant progress)
Lose 10 more pounds
Email auto responder series for readers (room for improvement but a good foundation)
Make books into audio books
Add books to Goodreads
Complete Blog To Do List (incomplete but majority/most important tasks complete)

In order to set myself up to succeed, I broke these yearly goals down into monthly and then weekly goals:

And here’s some deeper insight on how I did in each of the following categories. It’s important to add that some things, especially, the rebrand and relaunch of my YA series wasn’t even in my original goals but something that came up throughout the year.

Changing Hearts Series Rebrand/Relaunch

  • I had planned on launching book 3 in this series in May, but I was having issues with the cover and feedback on it. I went ahead and decided to ask for input as to why books 1 and 2 were not selling. I put the book 3 launch on hold when I realized the entire series needed to be revamped. I made plans and executed them over the entire summer when I was off work. It wasn’t easy and I wanted to be working on new words, but I’m glad I stuck with this.
  • I designed new covers, wrote new book descriptions, and created new titles for the existing books, including a new series title. I also made significant revisions to the now prequel (previously book 1) and republished. Book 3 (now book 2) came out with a new title, All In, and cover aligned with the rebrand.
  • I made the new book 1 (Without You) permafree at the end of July when it relaunched along with Better Off, the new prequel. I also published All In, book 2.
  • I paid for a bknights ad. I had calls to action in the front and back of the book for readers to get the free prequel, Better Off, if they signed up for my mailing list. I announced the relaunch to my mailing list and sent them the free prequel. Without You got a nice bump. See specific numbers below.

bk knights promo ranking without you

  • July (about 5-10 days): 464 free downloads on Amazon, iBooks, and Nook and also 10 paid sales, more than I had seen in one month before. Paid for a bknights promotion.
  • August: 11,095 free downloads of Without You; 153 sales, most of them All In, still my best-selling book of the entire series; this was the month I paid $20 to knights. I made $64.86 (I’d made about $40 total in the past year and a half.)

  • September: I booked an ENT ad for Without You and saw a great bump in rankings and signups to my mailing list. The book was ranking very well on iBooks. Without You free downloads: about 7,000, mostly across Amazon and iBooks. Close to 200 paid sales across all sites. I made $121.08. I also launched book 3 of the series, Letting Go. I had about 5 excellent honest reviews from ARC readers thanks to my mailing list.

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  • October: about 2700 free downloads across all sites, and I made $114.55. I thought this was great.
  • So that’s how the series has done in the first few months since the rebrand/relaunch. I haven’t booked any more promotions but will be soon to get sales back up. Actually, sales have picked up on their since Christmas and New Year's Day (this is the first time I'm likely to make over $300 in a single month and perhaps just from Amazon), but I don't expect it to last. The plan is to keep promoting Without You every 3-6 months and also put the other books on sale every so often to keep sales up. It’s a matter of scheduling promotions periods in Asana and making sure to execute.

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  • One of my goals this year was to get 20 honest reviews for each book. I definitely did not meet that goal but Without You has 15 reviews, Better Off has 8, All In comes in last place with 3, and Letting Go has 6. I’m offering free review copies of All In to my mailing list via an autoresponder, and I’ve gotten some interested readers. I plan on pushing this a bit more in the next few months. However, I’m finally at a great place where I have enough reviews on almost all of my books to be able to book promotions and get exposure.

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  • I also want to share how the books are doing overall across the various retail sites. At first I started doing equally well on Amazon and iBooks, but as time has passed, Amazon has come out in front as the place where I sell the most books. However, they’re also the two places where I sell about 95% of my books. I’ve had a very difficult time getting traction, sales, and reviews on Nook and Kobo, but hope to work on that this year. If I could get traction on those two sites, that could add significantly to my income.

Sales at Kobo.

  • Oh, and I also redesigned new paperbacks with the new covers. This was the hardest part of all but I actually am seeing a few sales here and there of the Without You paperback, and I wanted them for my bookshelf and to giveaway anyways.
  • Overall, I have to say that I’m REALLY happy with the how far my sales have come since the relaunch/rebrand and since I published my first book on January 1st, 2014. I’m nowhere near making a full-time income yet, but I’m getting there. I’ve set up a lot of things this year to help me get there, and I feel like now it’s a matter of keeping up the growth on my mailing list, interacting with readers through the mailing list, and putting out more books consistently.

Setting Up Buckets 

  • Email List: I mentioned earlier that when I relaunched the series, I put calls to actions in the front and back of all my books to get readers to sign up for my mailing list. I also created a separate mailing list for readers and another for writers. With all the downloads from the permafree book, I’ve gone from having 2 people on my mailing list (including me) to having over 630 people on that reader list. And I get emails from readers all the time, which I still can’t believe.

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 4.50.52 PM

  • I’ve set up autoresponders so readers can get to know more about me and my books and I’ve even set up a separate list that my most devoted readers can join: the Awesome Review Team, which gets free advanced review copies and additional giveaways and stuff.
  • Setting up all of these different lists, placing calls to action on my books, website, and social media, and just getting everything in place was not an easy task. It took a long time but I realized it was something I should have done a while ago. Now, my mailing list and website are working for me and I just need to keep up the interaction and maintenance. 
  • Website: I redesigned my website and focused on readers, not just writers. There are calls to action all over the place, including the home page, bottom of posts, sidebar, and book pages so readers can sign up for my readers mailing list in exchange for a free book. I see growth to my mailing list every single day, and part of it is because of people who stumble across my website and want to find out more about the books I write.

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  • Front/Back Matter of Books: I keep thinking about the Self-Publishing Podcast guys and how they say but WHY are you doing this. This is the whole reason behind going permafree on book 1. It’s an investment so I can get more readers and make more money in the long run. Readers find me with that permafree book and they immediately see calls to action for my mailing list. Sign up and you get another free book. Front and back matter is so valuable, and I use it wisely in all of my books. What do I want my reader to do next? Not buy the next book. That’s great, but I’d rather they join my mailing list first. What value can I offer them so they’ll do that?

NaNoWriMo 2015

  • The plan was to participate again. I won last year. It was super crazy with family and work, and I fell behind, but I managed to catch up and win. This year, not so much. I added 30,000 new words of new YA book, possibly a series, but I ultimately did not finish the first draft as I had planned. 
  • This book, being new, turned out to be incredibly difficult to write. The story and characters eluded me, but at least I got close to the end.
  • I still have the end to write, which may seem ridiculous, but not when you don’t know what the end is. I’ll have to set aside time at the beginning of 2016 to finally wrap this book up, no matter how scary it is and whether it’ll ever be a series or not.
  • So I believe I revised one book this year and wrote two more. Could have been better. Could have been three books, but I’ll take it.

Daily Work Habits

  • I started using a printed calendar to mark off every day that I worked on my writing/publishing business. Some days, I got to mark off that day if I sat down to work 5 minutes. Other days, I set higher standards. As you’ll see, I was successful most of the year, but there were long gaps where I did not work on writing at all. Those were times when I was just so mentally and physically exhausted that I couldn’t come home and work on writing stuff (especially towards the end of the year. In the summer, I took time off to travel, visit family, get married, and go on my honeymoon. Which I’m fine with :)

  • This year, I’ve bought a 12 month calendar in which I’l write in more detail what I accomplished that day. I’ll add up minutes/words at the end of the month and take pictures for Evernote as an additional record. I also want to schedule in down time. I think I’m learning that sometimes I need to take a couple of weeks off to just read or watch TV or relax with family. Time to recharge creatively. I don’t expect myself to write every single day anymore. It’s just not realistic, not when I have a day job, family, household chores, and a million other things to do. 
  • My plan is to be able to start writing full-time starting in June, and I expect to see a rise in productivity after that, but it’ll be an adjustment, and I’m okay with that. Right now, my job takes up most of my time and energy. As much as I love what I do, I love writing more and my goal is to be able to do it all the time. I’m exciting that I can finally make the transition. We’ve been working a lot this year on cutting down expenses while saving. I think it’ll still be hard financially, but that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

Reading

 
  • I met and exceeded this year’s reading goals for the 2015 Goodreads Reading Challenge by reading 38 books out of 26 (146% of goal). I read so much, and it was great.
  • However, I’ve been stuck in a rut towards the end of the year (due to mental exhaustion/burnout) and haven’t been reading at all since late November. I could never just not read, though, I’ll be finding a good book again soon and diving into another world.

Health

  • I lost 10 more lbs by continuing healthier eating and portion habits, as well as exercise 6 times a week. I haven’t weighed this amount in a long time, and in 2015, I never felt more heathy and active. The plan is to keep that up, even if I don’t exercise with as much intensity.

To sum up, I accomplished most of my goals in 2015. Even though I’m happy with the progress I made in all areas of my life, I think there’s still room to learn and improve. I still think I should be producing more words so that I can be closer to earning a full-time writing income, but that’s only gonna happen when I can write full-time, even if I need to supplement with editing jobs. However, I’m ecstatic for 2016 because I’m closer than I’ve ever been to becoming a full-time author (zero sales to consistent monthly sales).

How far did you come in 2015 with your goals?

Camp NaNoWriMo 2015: Day 29 (Never Stop Making Progress!)

Oh boy. So this last part of the month did not go as I planned.

I got bombarded with lots of day job and wedding planning stuff, and the truth is I chose not to make writing a priority during those several days. Very on and off, mostly off the past week or so.

But I’m back on the daily writing wagon, even knowing that I’m not going to meet my 40K goal.

And I’m completely okay with that.

Right now, this manuscript (Unforgettable Love) is at 30,608 words (77% done!). So yes, I’m slightly disappointed in myself because I could have easily won this challenge I set for myself, but I’m still very happy and proud of the 30K I have so far (with one more day to go).

Yes, I wanted a completed manuscript, and I fell short of that, but I’m almost there.

Things came up that I didn’t expect, but the important thing is that I didn’t do what I would have done a couple of years ago and just completely abandoned the book until months later.

Instead, I’ve adjusted my goals so that I’ll finish this book by May 15th at the absolute latest, but I should be done well ahead of that new schedule. If I just write 600ish words a day, I can make that new deadline. But it’s much more doable and I’ll also have time to exceed if I can and work on a ton of other stuff that I need to do (writing, marketing, exercise, and wedding stuff).

The most important thing I’ve learned so far is that you can’t stop making progress no matter what.

No matter what.

Be it five minutes a day. 100 words. 500 words or thirty minutes if you can. But don’t skip a day. Because it will turn into two and then three.

I said several posts ago that my goal was to get to 3-4K daily. I still want to do that, but right now, I can’t do that daily amount so I’m scaling back to 1K a day until the wedding passes and I take care of some day job things that are coming up. I’ll produce slower but consistently until I can push my productivity to higher levels. Because it’ll mean another book formatted, marketed, and published, another written, yet another outlined.

How did you guys do during Camp NaNoWriMo?

Below is a quick summary of the progress I’ve made (and not made) the past several days that I did not publish a writing diary.

Day 23: 04.23.15 Thursday 0 words

Day 24: 04.24.15 Friday 789 words

Day 25: 04.25.15 Saturday 0 words

Day 26: 04.26.15 Sunday 0 words

Day 27: 04.27.15 Monday 0 words

Day 28: 04.28.15 Tuesday 2111 words

Today’s Data

Total Words: 1038

Total Word Count: 30,608

Camp NaNoWriMo 2015: Day 22

7:46pm So it's not even 8pm, and I've met both of my big daily goals. Write enough to stay on track for Camp NaNoWriMo and exercise.

I'm very surprised. Today was hell at the day job. I had to stay very late with no breaks, and I came home practically brain dead at about 3:15pm. Completely wiped. I went straight to bed to recuperate for at least an hour. I closed my eyes but couldn't really fall asleep. It was close to four, but I just couldn't bear to leave bed yet, so I caught up on blog reading. Then I tried to nap again but the fiance got home, and I made myself finally get up. The slight headache I had all afternoon got steadily worse. I had a snack and watched a bit of Netflix at the dining table.

Then I had the laptop open and ready to start, but I just could not get rid of this headache. So I closed the computer and worked out. That usually makes me feel better mentally. It did for the most part. I ran to the shower, grabbed the toddler, and brought her to her 6:30pm Wednesday church class.

I brought my laptop, and this is where I'm at now. I procrastinated a bit, but finally got started writing at 7pm. Her class ends at 8pm, and I made it my goal to finish my 1700 words for today by then. I had time for two pomodoros. I set the time for the first, but I was on a roll, so I didn't stop until 7:38pm when I crossed the finish line.

I'm so happy. I wrote probably my favorite scene of the book so far tonight. Carlos and Naomi's relationship is beautiful. The words were flowing, and I just kept thinking how far I've come as a writer. Like, hey, this doesn't completely suck! It's actually kinda good! Yay!

Don't you love these kinds of moments? I live for them, especially when the words get stuck, and they're not very good.

So anyway, I'm including Tuesday's and tonight's stats below. I know I forgot to post last night. No details on that since after today, I can hardly remember my name :)

Tuesday's (Yesterday's) Data

Total Words: 2067

Total Time: ?

Total Word Count: 24,919

Today's Data

Total Words: 1751

Total Time: 38 minutes

Average WPH: 2765 (new record!)

Total Word Count: 26,670

Camp NaNoWriMo 2015: Day 20

11:35pm

In bed right now. Really tired. But not a bad day. I've been on and off the past several days. Writing some days and not others with all the website stuff going on. But got back on track today.

Not right away though. 

Got home and had some lunch around 2. Then remembered I needed to post this week's Monday Must-Reads. So proceeded to do that while listening to the Author Biz podcast. Just got hooked on it recently. Great show. 

Got distracted about halfway through and started tinkering with the website again, updating more obscure but important pages, like the page thanking email subscribers. 

I also double checked the Unbreakable Love file and uploaded it to Kobo, Nook, and Smashwords to get it on Apple. I hate publishing through Apple and been hearing lots of great things about Smashwords and the updates it's doing. And recently decided to go wide again with my books. Select only helped marginally. But now that I'm about to publish my third book and soon my fourth, I think it's smart to publish and find readers everywhere. Unending Love will be going up everywhere at the end of June. Book 3 will be going wide out of the gate. Might experiment with Select again in the future but trying something else now. First book permafree with clickable image calls to action in the back of each book for my email list. I'm offering my books for free to all of my subscribers in the form of review copies. This should help increase the size of my list. 

So I finally published Monday Must-Reads and then started looking at my 2015 production plan. I've added lots of marketing tasks to it. So I transferred them to Asana and added deadlines and assigned them to projects. I'll do a post on the tools I use soon.  

At some point I also worked out and did some wedding planning stuff. Finally started writing around 9pm. Forgot to track time and all that but happy I met my daily 1715 word goal around 10:30pm. I believe I did about two pomodoros with a long break and perhaps a distraction. So not bad. But again, working on getting words done earlier. Lots of procrastination today. And also feeling pressure of getting marketing stuff done. 

Today's Data

Total Words: 1718

Total Time: 75-90 minutes with break

Total Word Count: 22,852

Camp NaNoWriMo 2015: Day 19

11:19pm

So no words today. Got a lot of marketing related stuff done but no words. So that sucks. But I took a list at my marketing tasks for April and just was like... 

I really needed to work on optimizing the back matter for my current two books. Then optimizing my website, specifically the books pages. Also found a great website that takes the Amazon link for your book and then gives you back a new link that will open for customers in whatever country they are in. Then reconfigured sidebar (way too cluttered) and menus. New reading section!

I'm trying to get a lot of this stuff set up for when Unfailing Love releases. I need the calls to action in the back matter ready, my book pages, and email list drip campaign done. 

I also need to get the Unfailing Love cover done once and for all. Ugh. 

So yeah. No words today but I will have new words tomorrow. Not as much marketing stuff to do tomorrow since I did most of that today. 

Today's Data

Total Words: 0

New Words: 0

Total Word Count: 20,134

Camp NaNoWriMo 2015: Day 18

Woke up at 9ish this morning, determined to get my words done early. Took a shower, sat at the dining table, and also got breakfast ready (and ate) as I wrote for an hour and twenty minutes.  Then wedding errands called so finally tore myself away after 892 words around 11:15am. More than halfway done for the day. Didn't get back home until about 3pm. Then left again to go grocery shopping and another errand. Back around 5pm. Talk about mentally drained. 

Then I had lunch and got some editing stuff done. Finally got started on words around 8:30, again on and off, finished around 9:30pm. Wanted to keep writing and hit 2k but other duties called. Then watched part of a movie, finally did my workout, and about to go to bed at midnight. Gonna try to get my words done early tomorrow too. No plans to be out and about like today. 

Today's Data

Total Words: 1678

Total Time: 140 minutes (on and off)

Total Word Count: 21,134

Camp NaNoWriMo 2015: Day 17

11:23pm

Another long day today. Stayed really late at work then had lunch at Chickfila with the toddler and finished up more day job stuff while she played on the playground. Finally wrapped everything up at home around 5:30pm and kinda took a break to get some more bills stuff done. No luck due to wifi and phone issues. And the toddler tried to shave again after she went to go potty so dealing with that was interesting. She's fine but we fell asleep together for a well needed nap (for us both). Woke up around 9:30pm and had a big late dinner (ugh). Did some cleaning and am now on the couch about to go to bed. So no words today. Was productive with day job stuff so that means I should have most of the weekend free to produce words and get back on track. Just been super tired this week. 

Today's Data

Total Words: 0

Total Time: 0

Total Word Count: 19456