November Goals + Fun Holiday Event

November Goals

When November rolled around last Thursday I was floored. I mean, how did it get to be November already? And what happened to my October goals? And how am I going to get through the rush of the holiday season with my sanity – and my deadlines! – intact? Seriously, these questions stressed me out for almost a full day before I got hold of them, and my calendar, and came up with a plan. Before we get to the plan, though, how about a goals recap. For October, my four goals were:

  • Track my meals and workouts – I’ll count this as half a point because I did track my workouts – and averaged 5/week, yay! – but I wasn’t so great at tracking my meals/calorie intake. 
  • Finish an indie novella for a project that is releasing in March – This is not even half a point, because I didn’t finish by October 31, it took until November 2. But, the project is now with my proofer and editing will commence in a couple of weeks.
  • Themed planning days – this is a full checkmark! I started block-scheduling my days in October and I really like how that is working for me, although it also caused a planner hiccup which I’ll explain in another blog. What I like about block scheduling is that every task (errands, appoints, emails/social media, writing, etc) has it’s own box (or “theme”, which actually allows for more freedom with writing time. Block scheduling will continue! 
  • Finish revisions: also a full checkmark. I sent revisions for a brand new project to my agent mid-October and am waiting for her feedback and a final polish before sending that project out into the world.

All in all, October wasn’t horrible. I give myself 3.5 out of 4 checkmarks, which I think is totally great! For November, my goals will be a little different because, lets face it, Thanksgiving will eat into writing/editing/authoring time, as will preps for December. Here we go with that list: 

  • Edit and format the novella to prep for publication; start an initial publicity plan.
  • Do any last minute touches to the with-the-agent project before it goes out into the world.
  • Prep and send 2 proposals to the agent for new projects that I’m super excited about <– this is my NANO project. I know, NANO is for writing a book in a month, but that doesn’t work for me so I use it in a different way.
  • Continue with block/theme scheduling my days because that is really helping me to be more productive – and happier, too!
  • Track meals Monday – Friday and track workouts Monday – Friday, too.

What about you? Do you have a goal or two for November? Share in the comments and we’ll keep one another accountable! 

Several authors & I are hosting a fab holiday event – join the fun!

Oh, and Through Thanksgiving, some author friends and I are hosting a really fun event – filled with books and games and maybe even a holiday recipe or two. It’s happening over at our Facebook Group: Coffee, Cupcakes & Contemporaries. Stop in, join the group and see what we’re up to – I’m hosting on November 10 – that’s this Saturday! – and I have some fun stuff in the works.

5 Ways to Improve Productivity

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about productivity. Every year about this time, I start looking ahead to the next year. I begin to cull through my potential Word of the Year List and reflect on my word for this year. I look at my goals for the year and come up with a plan to make it through the holiday season with my goals still intact.

I like to be productive. I’m happier when I’ve checked off my to-do lists, when I have a plan for the day (or week or month or, heck, year). I feel better, not just in my headspace, but physically when I’m meeting my health goals and I feel better in my headspace when I’m making time for creative outlets. But it’s hard to be productive all the time – some days, no matter how many things are on my to-do, I just don’t feel like it. I don’t want to write or read or finish that craft or make those phone calls or pay those bills or fold that last load of laundry. I just flat-out don’t want to.

When those days hit, there are two choices: 1) don’t do anything and feel even worse the next day or 2) fight back against the don’t-wannas with a few tricks. Here are five ways I push through those blah days:

  1. I use a focus app called Tide:   I’ve been using focusing apps for a long time, but I switched over to this app in the spring and I am in serious love with it. There are several different settings (nap, meditation, focus, etc), with different timing options starting at 15 minutes. I usually set it for 45 minute writing sessions: write for 45, take a short break to fold that load of laundry or get a drink of water or play ball with Hazel-the-pup, then it’s back at my desk for another session. 
  2. Put the phone in another room:   This seems like a given but for a long time, I was working with my phone right next to me. Email would bleep or someone would call and wham! I’m out of my zone and distracted again. Putting the phone in another room (and turning off the notifications for my watch) is key to keeping my focus where it needs to be. Going along with this one: turn off the internet! Seriously, disconnect from wi-fi and if you need to check “just one thing” online, make a note in your WIP or on a piece of paper and keep pushing forward. Check that one thing during your morning routine or after you’ve met your word count for the day.
  3. Use a paper planner: There are a lot of digital options for planning and I think they’re great. For me, though, a paper planner is the best option (the Happy Planner is my jam! Love the flexibility/customization options of the disc system). My planner holds daily to-do lists (like cleaning and appointments) but it also houses my business plan, deadlines, quarterly goals (including action steps to meet said goals). Plus, there are stickers and stickers make everything better! There are a couple of different studies that have shown the physical act of writing down a goal or appointment helps us meet those goals. I’m a firm believer in paper planners for accountability and goal setting.
  4. Make a date with yourself: have lunch with girlfriends, go for a walk in the botanical gardens, or just head to the mall to people-watch. I like taking my writing notebook with me. Sometimes I brainstorm book/character ideas, sometimes I write down blog/social media post ideas and sometimes I just bring dump a lot of the stuff in my head or doodle. Here’s the thing: as much as I love planning, there are times that I plan too much for too long. Being unable to focus on my work can sometimes mean that I haven’t made time for *me*. When that happens, stepping away from my computer is crucial, even if it’s only for an hour. Creative dates help me clear my head so I can focus again.
  5. Sleep: I don’t mean a nap in the middle of the day (although a good 20 minute power nap can be ahhhh-mazing!). I mean getting a full 8 hours of sleep. Having a set bedtime and sticking to it. Along with eating healthy and drinking water, the best thing I can do for my focus is to make sure I’m getting enough sleep. Being rested is crucial for me to feel good, to feel like working, and to be able to focus on my work. 

When I’m having one of those days when I just can’t focus, I’ll think about what I’ve been eating/drinking, the sleep I’ve been getting or the schedule I’ve been keeping…if I need it, I’ll take an hour or so for me, and then I’ll go back to the basics of turning on my focus app, turning off the internet, and getting back to work.

What about you? How do you focus when your focus is gone?

#WriteTip: How to Approach Edits

Wow, it’s a new month and I’m here posting on a brand new day! There’s a reason for that: a couple of group blogs that I’m involved with are changing up their posting schedule, which prompted a change to my blog’s schedule. Starting today (and how apropos that this is actually starting on the first day of a new month?), I’ll be posting every Monday here. 

Today’s post is part of my #howwedo series, in which I ask a few author friends how they approach different parts of the writing life, from brainstorming a story concept to that final round of edits. I started this series because of the most-often asked questions writers get is how do you _____. And what I’ve found over my years in publishing is that there is no one approach to anything in this business. I think it can be incredibly helpful to see the various ways that different authors approach aspects of their career because we may be able to grab a little nugget of something Writer A does and adapt it into our own processes. So, without further ado, How We Do: Self-Edits

What is a self-edit? It’s that round of edits we do to polish our manuscripts before sending to our agent/editor/hopeful-publisher. 

My approach is first a quick-hit with my grammar program because I have a serious problem with commas thanks to my years in TV journalism when we used commas to “tell” the anchors where to pause. This also helps me find obvious typos and the occasional run-on/wordy sentence. Then, I save the manuscript as a PDF and put it on my iPad Pro, so that I can read through and mark it up using my Apple Pencil. From there, it’s as simple an inputting those changes and sending off to my agent. 

But you don’t just want to hear from me. Here’s what my friend, Nan Reinhardt (who happens to be a super-talented author and editor), has to say. “I start with whatever my Betas have discovered—typos, time line issues, name problems, etc. and fix those. Then I put it on my Kindle and read the whole manuscript that way, making notes the entire time. Then I run it through an editing program I have—one that I use when I’m editing other people’s work. After that, one last spell check before I finally send it off. This last time, I knew the heroine could have been fully developed, but I was running short on time, so I sent it off with a hint of doubt. Sure enough, my editor loved everything about the story, except she thought the heroine needed fleshing out. I think most writers have a gut feeling about their stories when they finish a first draft.”

Author Claire McEwen wrote for Harlequin’s Superromance line with me, and we did a fab multi-author novella collection, based on our different Superromance series. She now writes for Harlequin’s Heartwarming line and says, “If at all possible, I like to take a break from the manuscript before I try to revise or edit. It is amazing what I can see if I have a few days off from the pages! So I set my writing schedule up to accommodate this. For example, right now I’m writing the first draft of a contracted book. I plan to finish the draft in the next few weeks, then set it aside. I’ll spend the next few weeks working on a proposal for another book. Then I’ll go back to my draft and revise and edit before I send it off to the editor.”

My friend Liz Flaherty has written for Harlequin’s Special Edition as well as Heartwarming line, and her approach to editing is so on-point because Liz believes that you have to own the book and story you’re telling. “I type it as clean as I can, my friend Nan Reinhardt—who, blessedly enough, IS an editor—then gives it a read. I fix or I don’t, depending on what she tells me <g>, then it’s off to my editor. If I were newer, or not published, I’m not sure how I’d do it.”

There you have it, writers, 4 approaches to editing that I hope will help you develop a system of your own. Next time, our #howwedo will deal with approaching editor feedback. Stay tuned!

Oh, and since it’s the first of the month, how about we do some goals? I know I am much more likely to accomplish my goals if I tell people about them. So…here we go. Kristina’s 3 October Goals

  1. Track my meals Monday – Friday, and create a workout schedule. I have a plethora of workout videos, a running/interval program on my phone, and a number of WiiU fitness games. The problem is that I can sometimes put off a workout because I can’t decide what to do. So, like my buddy Jill is doing, I’m going to create a rotating schedule of Monday-Friday workouts, put them in my planner and then it’s as simple as loading the DVD (or going outside) and checking off that list item!
  2. Finish writing a novella for an indie-continuity project that releases early next year. The books are light-hearted, sweet romances, set in the Caribbean (y’all know how I love a beach!) and I can’t wait to share more with you. 
  3. Create a “themed” schedule. Even though I’m a full-time writer, I don’t write from 8am – 4pm; I can’t, as much as I want to. But, I also waste some of the time I have when bebe is at school. So, I’m creating a block schedule in which certain times of the day are for writing and others are “themed” – like for professional development, content/social media creation, “me” time. You get the idea. I’ll let you know how I like this block schedule. 
  4. Do a final revision pass once I get a project back from my agent this month. It’s something I’ve been working on for a while and I’m so excited about it but it’s been such a HARD book to write!! This is my final goal of the month because I don’t know when I’ll get her comments back and I’m not sure how many changes will be needed…so this goal may bleed into November. 

Do you have a goal or two for the month?