Every year, it’s a good habit to set some goals for what you’d like to achieve for your health, lifestyle, career, and lifelong dreams. For 2017, I made a list of goals I wanted to achieve as a writer. And this year, I learned that to set realistic goals for yourself, you need to have a bird’s-eye view. For this, you need to understand how long certain tasks take, how long you require to get them right, and a good idea of the time you’ll need to navigate life’s twists and turns. Without this knowledge, you’re not likely to see the full picture.
In 2017, I was still new to the world of being an Indie author. Everything was new to me. In other words, I had no idea how long it would take me to edit my first draft, how many edits I’d need, how long it would take to work with a story editor, how long it would take to work through line edits. And I also had no real understanding of how much all of this would cost (money). Instead of the big picture, I had a bug’s-eye view. Every task appeared huge, unmanageable and endless.
Last year, I set out to achieve some rather ambitious goals:
- Launch a crowdfunding campaign to fund my Nuclear Conspiracy epic political thriller trilogy.
Outcome: Failure. I didn’t realize the incredible amount of work that goes into a crowdfunding campaign. I was too overwhelmed editing Book 1 to give this project serious attention and decided to postpone until I had more time.
- Publish Book 1 of Nuclear Conspiracy.
Outcome: Failure. After the first edit, Book 1 was already 150K words. That’s when I started to think that I had bitten off more than I could chew. It has eight character POV (like George R.R. Martin), and I struggled to make the storylines cohesive and get the pacing right for a thriller. When I did the math on the editing costs, I realized that I couldn’t even afford to edit the book when I finished. After much debate, I decided to shelve the trilogy until later in my author career.
- Complete drafts of Books 2 and 3 of Nuclear Conspiracy.
Outcome: Failure. I managed to start an outline for Book 2, but have shelved the trilogy until 2019 or even later.
- Enhance author platform by producing more issues of Technical Series on WMD Issues and Film and WMD Series and writing blog posts.
Outcome: #Itotallyfailed. I have a full-time job and have very limited free time to spend on writing. I realized rather quickly that if I spent this time on my platform, my writing would go nowhere. I wrote four new blog posts, which doesn’t come close to meeting my one-a-month goal, but it’s better than nothing. At this point in my writing career, it makes more sense to prioritize… my fiction writing.
- Complete draft of Bionic Bug.
Outcome: Success! I completed the first draft of Bionic Bug in April and sent it to beta readers for their feedback. By the end of April, I decided to shelve Nuclear Conspiracy and focus on the first three books of the Lara Kingsley Series instead.
If I were to judge the success of 2017 on completing the specific goals I set for myself, then this year was an abject failure. I only accomplished one goal. But when I reflect on the entire year, I can’t believe what I’ve achieved and how far I’ve come as a writer.
Here’s a review of what I achieved:
- Attended several writer events.
Outcome: New friends and connections! I attended three writing events this year, and it’s hard to overstate how much they changed my life. In February, I attended the first Story Grid Workshop hosted by Shawn Coyne and Tim Grahl in New York City. I spent two days delving into the Story Grid editing technique and learning how to self-edit and made my first writer friends. In April, I attended the Smarter Artist Summit organized by Sterling & Stone. I got to meet Sean, Johnny, Dave, Christine and many fellow authors who I now consider friends. In July, I attended the one-day FBI Workshop, which is part of ThrillerFest. The most exciting part of my time in NYC was meeting Joanna Penn in person (no picture to prove it). I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to attend these type of events and get connected into the Indie community. This year transformed my life.
- Taught four video classes on WMD to writers.
Outcome: New skill! They say that one thing leads to another, and that’s true with a writing career as well. After attending the Smarter Artist Summit, I applied to join Stone Table, which is a community of artists seeking to leverage each others’ knowledge and skills to turn their art into a thriving business. For my contribution, I developed four Writers of Mass Destruction (WMD) courses on nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological weapons to help writers get the technical details right. I’d never done a live video course before, and this helped me leap forward in my confidence in developing online content.
- Earned my first $14.85 for writing fiction.
Outcome: Earnings! I decided to run an experiment on discovery using Noisetrade. I uploaded a sample of Bionic Bug onto the site and used social media to get the word out. For a short time, I was on the top of the charts. I received 33 downloads and $14.85 in tips in just a few days. Okay, it didn’t last, but it was exciting and gave me some ideas for marketing in the future.
- Completed Nanowrimo for the second time in a row.
Outcome: Victory! NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, and it takes place in November. Hundreds of thousands of writers attempt to write 50,000 words in one month. I decided to begin the first draft of Project Gecko, Book Two of the Lara Kingsley Series. Not only did I finish, but I wrote more than 50K with four days to spare.
- Started to learn Dragon Dictation.
Outcome: Better luck next year? I finally decided to give dictation a try and invested in the necessary equipment and software. In the beginning, I was impressed by my word count, but building the skills and developing a routine that would work well for me has been difficult. After two weeks, I realized that dictation is a new skill that requires your brain to build new pathways between the verbal left side of the brain and the creator on the right side of the brain. It will probably take me about two months of daily work to hone the skill. And since I was in the middle of Nanowrimo, I gave up. But I will try it again in 2018.
- Edit Bionic Bug.
Outcome: Ready to go! Once I decided to shelve Nuclear Conspiracy and focus on the Lara Kingsley Series, I had my marching orders. I spent two months editing Bionic Bug before working with a story editor for three months. Then I sent it to a line editor and had professional covers done. In December, worked through the line-by-line edits and finished the final draft of Bionic Bug, which I will release in January 2018. This is the biggest accomplishment of my year, and I’m thrilled.
This year turned out great, but it didn’t go at all as I expected. My biggest lesson is that as a newbie author, I didn’t have the bird’s-eye view I needed to set the right goals for myself. And I’m hoping that I’ll do much better this time. I guess we’ll see 🙂
Here’s what’s in store for 2018:
- Publish Bionic Bug on Kobo on 18 January. I’m planning to “bank” the first three books of my series on Amazon, so I’m only doing a soft launch on Kobo to start. When I’m ready to launch the series, I will release them one after the other on Amazon sometime in 2019.
- Launch a crowdfunding campaign for Project Gecko on 18 February. As part of my campaign, I am crowdsourcing my next novel. In an exclusive Facebook Group, readers will get the opportunity to shape the story–i.e., choose settings, name things, help make decisions on character arcs and much more. I will offer signed limited edition hardcover copies of Bionic Bug and other cool stuff.
- Attend the Smarter Artist Summit on 26-27 February in Austin, Texas.
- Complete the first draft of Project Gecko by 18 March. I’m planning to get the first draft of my next book down before readers become part of the editing process.
- Attend ThrillerFest in July in New York City. As part of this event, I’ll be participating in PitchFest and have the opportunity to meet with over 100 agents. I’m committed to being an Indie author, but am curious to see how I’d be received (or rejected) by the traditional publishing world.
- Publish Project Gecko eBook on 18 September. After working with a story editor and line editor, I will release the eBook on Kobo.
- Complete the first draft of Genomic Data. Before the year is out, I plan to finish the first draft of the third book in the Lara Kingsley Series in preparation for another crowdfunding campaign.
It’s going to be a busy and exciting year. I hope you’ll continue to follow my journey from national security expert to becoming a published fiction writer.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.