The new year is usually a time for reflection for a lot of people and I’m no different. Working over the break on my current WIP and drafting a plan for what I wanted to achieve this year made me realise that I’ve learned a lot over the past 12 months about my creative and marketing habits.
I identified three things which held me back last year, and I’m going to try to eliminate them this year so I can become more productive.
1. Having a goal, not forming a habit
Jeff Goins recently posted a tweet which, in a nutshell, stated that if you have a goal in mind, that’s not good enough. You have to form new habits in order to achieve that goal – you can’t have one without the other.
Last year I had a goal to release my thriller Under Fire by August 2013. We were planning to be in the UK visiting family in September and I wanted to get it out before we left so that I could relax and enjoy the break. I did it, but it was very haphazard and I nearly failed. The reason? At the beginning of 2013 I didn’t form a writing habit and so as the deadline approached, I put myself (and others) under an increasing amount of stress in order to meet that goal.
Luckily I’ve learnt from the experience and Under Fire didn’t suffer for my poor planning – reviews are good, and readers are enthusiastic about Dan Taylor’s latest exploits.
During the latter part of 2013, I formed a new writing habit to avoid any future last-minute panics. I now use the time it takes me to commute to and from work on the train to write every day. I often exceed the word count I set myself each day.
From forming this habit, I’ve got a good feeling that I’ll meet my goal of writing two romantic suspense novels this year – possibly publishing both if the editing process goes as well as the writing phase.
Without the habit, the goal would be impossible.
2. Ineffective use of social media
Most of my readers live in the UK and the United States, so that last year when tweeting or posting to Facebook, I was sending out updates at different times in the hope that I’d catch someone who was still awake.
I spent a lot of time over the Christmas break reading blog posts about effective use of social media and realised I’d been guilty of many of the mistakes highlighted in these articles.
It took me some time to cotton onto the fact that I wasn’t getting retweets and the like as much as I’d hoped because I was using social media during the wrong time zones for my UK and US followers. I’m a bit of a social butterfly and enjoy interacting and joking around with people on Twitter and Facebook so it was a shame to be missing out on all the fun.
During the Christmas break, I reviewed my Twitter and Facebook activity over 2013 to see where the best ‘busy times’ were, and from that analysis, when the best time would be to use this social media.
I’ve been implementing this for the past week, and I’m already seeing a marked increase in interactions so I’m looking forward to this continuing through 2014.
3. Being a pantser, not a planner
I’ve made no secret of my experience writing Under Fire in interviews these past few months. I’d reached the halfway mark and because I hadn’t sat down and properly mapped out the whole story, I ended up ditching about 15,000-20,000 words which didn’t sit well with the rest of the novel.
For my current WIP, and for another project I have on the boil, I used a screenwriting technique called a “treatment”. This means you write out the whole story along the lines of ‘this happens, then this happens” etc. Once you’ve done that, you can split out the story into chapters and identify key scenes which can then be written with the comfort of knowing that I’m not going to be throwing work away.
By addressing each of the problems I identified from 2013, I reckon this year’s going to go from strength to strength for me.
What will you do differently in 2014?
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