My "rules" for 2016

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about how there aren't any rules for writing since everyone is going to work a little different. That said, I do get value out of seeing how other people work to see if there are some take-aways I can incorporate into my own habits. So, I thought I'd share some of the new tactics I'm implementing this year to improve as an author.

This year, my focus is on productivity. I've always felt like I had a good handle on the business side of being an author. How to market my books, create a platform, manage my money, etc. But I never actually laid down a plan on how to be an author. And because of that, I've still been treating the act of writing like a hobby. So, no surprise I only managed to write one book in 2015.

I want to write a lot more than that in 2016 and I knew that wouldn't happen without changing how I currently operate. So here we go.

1. Track my writing
I always get stuck when people ask me how long it takes me to write, because while I have a vague idea of how long it takes me, it's never been something I tracked. So I invested a big $5 in myself to purchase a fancy excel sheet that tracks my daily writing habits from Jaime Raintree. It's not a magic wand, but I can set goals for each project and each month and track my daily writing output. I'm hopeful that being able to see my productivity will keep me on track and help me to plan better in the future.

2. Plan my projects
In the past, I would make plans such as "I want to write these two books this year", but I never gave them actual deadlines or put them on the calendar. I realized that in order to take my authorship to the next level, I need to be more intentional in my writing plans. Unfortunately, because of the downfalls I mentioned in #1, I don't have a solid idea of how long it really takes me to finish a project. So, for this year, my planning is very loosely scheduled, giving myself (hopefully) way more time than I actually need. Ideally, I'll be able to do this better next year, but I didn't want to wait any more.

I've already taken a leap on this one. I got on the calendar for my cover designer before I even wrote word one of the book they are working on. This is big for me, because I am crazy practical when it comes to spending money. So, I have always waited to commit on spending money on my book until it was done. But that adds wait times to my production schedule that don't need to be there. It's time to stop sitting on the fence and commit to doing what I love. I'm an author now, time to start acting like it.

3. Listen/read with purpose
I love podcasts. I learn so much and it's a fun way for me to feel connected to the writing community. But learning doesn't  help me if I skip the implementation stage. So this year I am committing to a new tactic. Anytime I sit down to listen to a podcast, watch a craft video, or read a non-fiction book, I will also have a pen and paper. If I learn something, I need to write it down, and as soon as I'm done, I need to figure out a way to implement that learning into my daily practice or create a reminder to use that information when it is applicable. If I find that I'm no longer learning anything applicable from a particular source, then I need to stop wasting my time. Podcasts and craft videos are fun, but they need to be informative if I'm going to keep reading them. Same thing goes with books and blogs. If I'm going to be more productive, I have to cut out activities that don't contribute to more productivity.

4. Sweat the small stuff
No, I'm not going to start micromanaging my every action, but I am going to focus more on small activities this year.  In 2015 I let my marketing efforts fall to the way side while I struggled to write the one book I managed to finish. Not only do I think this hurt my sales, but I felt less connected to the writing community. So this change is both business and personal. In 2016 I want to focus more on small actions I can take every day to stay connected to my readers and promote my books. Things like pitching a guest post, finding new people to follow on twitter, or soliciting new reviews. To help keep track of what I've worked on and stay organized, I'm trying a new program called Trello. I'm still getting used to it, but I'll let you know in the future if it helps. Sadly, I've exceeded the limitations of my composition book to keep track of everything I need to get done, so we'll see if this can be the replacement I need.

5. Read more
I did okay reading fiction in 2015, but I feel like I missed so many great books. I make weekly trips to the library because I can't afford to buy everything I want to read, but I am going to start buying more books. It's hard for me to justify book expenses with a family, but I need to start seeing it as an investment in my career. I'm also going to be more proactive in asking our teen librarian what new books she has in each week. If I want to stay on top of trends, I need to be better about reading books closer to their release date. That said, I am continuing with my decision to not read books I don't want to, regardless of their popularity. It's no secret that I just don't love contemporary, though I will pull one out at least once a year to give it another try. No matter how much attention a book gets, if it isn't something I think I'll enjoy, I'm not going to read it. There are too many good books and too few days to read novels I don't love.

So those are my plans/rules to help make 2016 my most productive year yet. If you have plans of your own, I'd love to hear them.