Time flies when you’re bleeding out through your fingertips with every stroke of the keyboard —
*Pauses to Google “Time flies expression”*
Eh-hem. Time flies when you’re having fun, doesn’t it?
Welcome to the second annual Everyday Author State of the Author review. Just like last year, I’m kicking it back and taking the first virgin days of 2016 to reflect on how a year’s worth of everyday authoring went. Although this post will be specific to my goals and work, I’d encouraging everyone to do a yearly review for themselves. You just might be surprised at how much you accomplished. It also has a way of showing where you need to step it up. If you want to see what plans I’ve got in store for this year, head on over to my author blog.
To be honest, I felt like I spent 2015 spinning my tires in the mud. But looking back, I accomplished quite a bit — even if the end results weren’t as flashy as I might have liked. Here’s a few numbers I’ve calculated. (Note: these are fiction words only, and don’t include any blog posts I wrote here or on derekalansiddoway.com)
- Rough draft words written: 65,000+
- Words revised: 185,000+
- Words published: 145,000+
Before we get into the meat of things, one other sidenote: I’ve included links to a number of products, books and services that I found especially helpful last year and plan to continue using/implementing in 2016. Please not that none of these are affiliate links and I am not receiving any form compensation from these companies. They were a huge help and I hope some of them will work out for you as well.
A recap of my 2015 author plans and resolutions:
Write faster: I tell you what, I blew this one out of the water! When I wrote Out of Exile and Return to Shadow, I had to give myself word count goals for each day to stay on pace and make sure I didn’t procrastinate. The second half of this year, I started using Chris Fox’s 5000 Word per Hour app and fell absolutely in love with it. I went from someone who wrote about 1000 wph (words per hour) to busting out 3000+ on some of my better days. As a competitive person and former track athlete, the allure of racing the clock to try and write faster kept me coming back to my rough drafts almost as much as the desire to finish the stories did. I haven’t read Chris’ accompanying book and have no plans to incorporate voice dictation (call me a purist I guess), but I would definitely recommend checking the app out. Right now, it’s only for iPhone, but the basic version is free.
Edit slower: This one was excruciating for me, because editing either makes me feel like I’m a storytelling genius or (most often) like I’m pulling my own teeth with rusty pliers. On top of that, nobody wants to pull teeth slow, you want to yank those bad boys out and get it over with. I’m still struggling with treating editing as something more than a deplorable task to be complete before a book can be published and I’m not sure what the solution is. Whenever I try to slow the process down, it just leads to me procrastinating. On the plus side, now I’m writing rough drafts faster, I have extra time to waste! I’ve also developed a pretty good production formula: after the second draft, I send the manuscript to beta readers and a continuity/developmental editor then incorporate their input into a third/fourth draft. I then send that to my copy editor. It worked really well with Return to Shadow and I anticipate using this model with all of my future work.
Have fun writing: Let me preface this by saying I spent the first five months of 2015 revising almost 150k words…and you know now how much I hate revising. That being said, the second half of the year, I got back to the glee of outlining and writing rough drafts. This year, I’ve got a variety of fresh projects and, as funny as it sounds, I’m looking forward to falling even more in love with writing in 2016.
What went well
I read a lot more than in 2014: Although I know now I’ll never get back to my pre-author book consumption levels, I balanced things out much better than I have in the past, keeping my creative tank fueled in the process. Some of my favorite non-fiction books included Creativity for Sale, The Rise of Superman, Gotta Read It, Finding Success in Failure, The Art of Work and Zombie Loyalists. I also placed my copy of The War of Art next to my desk and read a passage every morning before I started writing to give me a little extra motivation.
My websites: Last year, I lamented the amount of money spent on web design and ended up getting new themes for both Undaunted and derekalansiddoway.com. I’m happy to say I learned my mistake and have much cleaner, cheaper and engaging site designs now. I also found a fantastic newsletter signup plugin called Thrive Leads that looks really great on my fiction site, if I do say so myself.
I expanded my learning outside of the writing and self-publishing spheres: Not only what I read, but what podcasts I listen to as well. In addition to the staples I’ve discussed before here and here, I’ve also found a ton of great listens on the rainmaker.fm. In the publishing world today, being an indie author also means being an online marketer, entrepreneur, copywriter and more. I’ve found tons of gems from shows like Rough Draft, Unemployable with Brian Clark, Hack the Entrepreneur and more.
Facebook ads: Although I only began dabbling with them the last few months of 2015, using Facebook ads (with the help of Mark Dawson’s training course) helped me grow my author email list faster than breeding harem of rabbits.
Outlining: I’ve dabbled in this off and on after reading Anatomy of Story a few years ago, but I took it to a whole new level after ready The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne. This is a book I use as a reference every time I’m starting a new outline. Regardless of whether your write fiction or non-fiction, check out the website. There’s a HUGE amount of free resources that I guarantee will up your writing game.
I got back to a regular workout regimen: Although sometimes it felt like the last thing I wanted to do, I know that staying in shape helped me keep my sanity by giving me an outlet to blow off steam. Not to mention that your brain works better when the rest of you isn’t coated in a layer of fat. P90x3 was fantastic, but if you’re just getting starting, you’ll probably want to work up to it. Those workouts are killer. I also love the 7 Minute Workout app, which is great in a pinch and requires no equipment for its workouts. There are lots of different ones out there, but this is the one I use.
What didn’t go well
My plate was still WAY to full: In addition to Everyday Author and my indie fiction writing, I also started another new company (more on that later this month) in addition to holding down a full time job during the day, plus hundreds of volunteer hours with my county’s Search and Rescue. The result was a series of waves: I’d hit rock bottom, do nothing for a few days and be completely tuned out, then ramp back up and fire on all cylinders for a few weeks before crashing again. I got through it, but I really, really need to hone things down a bit more.
Keeping a schedule: As you can guess from above, I really struggled setting and sticking to a routine. This is going to be a big focus for me in 2016. A consistent bedtime will help me wake up early enough in the morning to get some personal work done before I have to switch focus to the day job. Hopping back and forth between the two over the course of a day has proved to be a recipe for getting nothing done at all.
Derek Alan Siddoway ( D_Sidd) always thought he wanted to be a paperback writer. Instead, he broke into the self-publishing world in 2013 when he realized there had to be a better use of his time than writing queries to agents. Converted by the fellowship of indie authors, he never looked back. Now, he’s the Founding Father of Undaunted Publishing, a hybrid publishing house combining the best of traditional and self publishing, and the author of Teutevar Saga, an epic/historical fantasy series with a “medieval western” twist. Learn more at derekalansiddoway.com.
Now it’s your turn, everyday authors! Leave a comment below and tell me what went well for you last year (or what didn’t). Feel free to brag about your word counts, sales or any other 2015 resolutions you achieved.