Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Do You Have A Goal? You've Got to Have a Goal.

If you saw the movie, Pretty Woman, then the title of this blog post should have sounded familiar. I know when I wrote it, I actually heard Laura San Giacomo's voice in my head.

Whether you saw Pretty Woman or not, it's true. You have to have a goal.

Oh, phooey! you say. I don't need no stinkin' goal. I'm just gonna fly by the seat of my pants.

And that's fine. You can fly by your seat, go with the flow, glide on the wind, ride the surf, [enter cliche here]. Some people don't do well with goals, especially folks who aren't disciplined (and no, I'm not knocking those who aren't disciplined...just saying that goals without discipline is bad mojo. So if you're not disciplined, you're wise not to set goals.).

Goals are like a road map. You can't get to your destination until you know what your destination is. Once you know that, all that's left is finding the right roads to get you there.

But here's what goals do for you when you add in a dose of discipline:

Back in February, I barely wrote 50,000 words. In March, I barely cracked 60,000. I thought I was doing well, but man, was it a struggle. But I didn't have a goal, either. For April, I tried something new. I set a goal of 70,000 words. There, I had my monthly mark. But having a monthly goal isn't enough. It's the destination, not the map to get there. To reach your goals you need both. And let's face it, 70,000 words sounds pretty daunting. So, I divided that by 30, the number of days in the month, and got 2,333. Ta-da! I had my daily goal (and my road map). And 2,333 sounds a lot more doable than 70,000, doesn't it?

Then I set out every day to hit my goal, no matter what it took. There were nights I didn't crawl into bed until after 11:00, because I HAD to get to my goal, come hell or high water. That number (2,333) meant something. And each day I hit it, the more important it became to continue hitting it. And an interesting thing happened. Not only did I write 2,333 words in a day. I found that I was writing over 3,000. Every day. 70,000 quickly became 80,000, and with seven days left in the month, I have already hit my original goal and need less than 8,000 words to reach my secondary goal. By April 30, I could actually hit 90,000 words, if I really apply myself. How cool is that?

Oh, and did I mention I have a job? At least until the end of May. So, having a job can't be used an excuse. Think of it as a reason and you'll go further.

At any rate, it's having that goal that has upped my writing volume. It's like I'm competing with myself to see by just how much I can surpass my quota. And for me, that drives me.

Goals + discipline + accountability make you work harder to avoid failure.

Sure, I had to get creative, and—yes—disciplined to keep slam-dunking my daily numbers, but what's the alternative? Watching my dream of being an author fade away? I'm not about to let that happen. Having the goal and committing to it made me think outside the box so I could create an even better road map to reach my destination.

So, I get up around 4:00 in the morning now just so I can write when I'm at my creative peak, which is in the morning. By the time 2:00 in the afternoon rolls around, my brain goes from creative to introspective or rational, and I hit a lull. For me, afternoons and evening are not my optimal writing time. So, I do what I have to to make sure I'm writing when I'm most productive. Sure, I'm missing some TV, and sure it sucks going to bed so early, but you know what? Those TV shows will still be there later, and I'll have plenty of time to go to bed whenever I like when I've got twenty-five or more books published. If losing a couple of hours a sleep every night is what it takes to get there, then okay. I'll lose some sleep.

To hit your goals, you've gotta work with what you're given, and sometimes that means doing what you think is impossible, like getting up at 4:00AM.
April has been so successful for me that I've now set a yearly goal: 1 million words (EEK!).

That's 83,333 words per month (okay, that's not so bad).
2,740 words per day (shoot, that's less than what I'm doing now. That's a snap).

See how that works? :) Just gotta eat that 1M-word elephant one bite at a time.

I've got this. Do you?

Happy reading and writing.

Friday, April 19, 2013

What if...? The Biggest Decision of My Life

It is with a mix of excitement, anticipation, hope, and fear that I write this post.

I've made the decision to retire to be a full-time author. EEK!

This is both an exhilarating and frightening prospect, because while I am excited to pursue my dream of being a full-time author, it isn't without fear of the unknown that I venture down that path. I'm daring to embark on a journey of my own making. To rely only on myself to earn the means by which I will survive. That's kind of scary, because there is no safety net. I'm putting all my eggs in this one basket and taking a chance that they will multiply in the way I have calculated they will.

But there are no guarantees. What if the bottom falls out? What if my well of ideas dries up? Oh, but what if it doesn't and they don't? A-ha! See, I've spent my life catering to fear: What if I'm not good enough? What if no one buys my books? What if...what if...what if? But "what if I fail?" is just negativity sucking away all the positives. It's stinkin' thinkin'. Turn that negative switch around. What if I AM good enough? What if enough people buy my books to put me on the NY Times Bestseller list? What if I'm wasting my talent by letting fear take away my dream? What if I could double my income in six months by dedicating all my professional efforts to my writing craft? What if, what if, what if INDEED!

By letting fear rob us of our dreams, we don't give ourselves the opportunity to reach for the sky. And unless you reach, you'll never succeed. Not reaching is the coward's way out. It's easy. Reaching is damn hard work, especially when you're an inch too short. But then you just have to find a way to extend your reach. With, say, a ruler or by standing on a ladder. Think on that.

It's not like I've made this decision without applying rational thought and doing my due diligence. I've crunched the numbers ten ways to Sunday, and while I won't discuss exact figures (because people I work with read my blog, and I've always been taught not to discuss my salary), but let's just say that in 2013 alone, I've made $XX,XXX selling books and $X,XXX at my job. In THREE MONTHS. Now, you can count those x's, and I will say that my book income is a little less than quadruple what my job income is, but that's as much detail as I'll give on that.

What if I was writing full time already? How big of numbers would that first set of x's represent then?

What if...?

By retiring now and devoting the remainder of 2013 100% to my writing, I give myself the chance, the merest possibility, even if it's a small one, of earning a 6-figure income in 2014. By staying at my job, I give myself ZERO chance of making that happen. None. Nada. Goose egg. If I stay at my job, I would earn a maximum of $XX,XXX for the remainder of 2013. Is a shot at $XXX,XXX (even if it's a slim one) worth $XX,XXX? (And that's a pretty wide spread if you saw the numbers).

How many business owners would look at those numbers and say, "You're making a good business decision by staying at your job."? None. And yet, that's what I've done. Because of my loyalty, I have consciously made the decision to do just that. And I did it with no regrets.

But the money's not the reason why I'm retiring. Not entirely. That's only a small piece of it. That's the rational, I-at-least-need-to-pay-my-bills, business reason behind my decision. The biggest reason for my decision to retire is simply this: When you figure out what it is you want to do with the rest of your life, you want the rest of your life to begin as soon as possible. You don't want to delay. I've got the writing education, I have the talent, I have the drive and motivation, and I'm not getting any younger. Every day that I'm not writing, I'm robbing myself of my future and disrespecting the gift and the opportunity that's been placed in front of me.

Think of it this way. I'm standing on the platform, and the train that carries my dream and my future pulls in to the station. And until now, I've just stood there and stared as everyone around me got on. As the train pulled away, I watched all those people go off and chase MY dream. And I stayed behind. I let them go. I didn't even try to grab the caboose as it flew past.

What if...I had gotten on those trains?

In the past year since I returned to work, I have let two incredible waves of momentum pass me by. I've watched two of those trains roll in and leave without me. And this year alone, I've walked away from three writing projects and numerous opportunities that would have allowed me to market myself and gain wider publicity. All because of my devotion to my job. I made that choice. I consciously sacrificed my career as an author and my dream to write novels so that I could fulfill my duty to my boss and to my company. And I don't say that to lay blame or create guilt. I say it as part of the foundation for why I'm making my decision now. Because it's time for me to stop letting those trains of opportunity pass me by. I need to get on one and ride it.

I hope those who I work with understand how loyal I've been to the company and to my boss. I don't know many people who would put their "careers" on hold for a "job," but I did just that. And, again, I did it without remorse, and I did it eagerly. It was the right decision at the time. It's just not the right decision anymore. It's time for me to follow MY dream for a change, not someone else's, which is what I've done all my life.

Not many people get the opportunity to follow their dreams and make a career out of doing what they love. Many let the "what ifs" kill their dreams and take them away. I know I have in the past, but I won't let that happen anymore. I consider myself fortunate and damn lucky. I understand the opportunity I've been given. Now I just need to start respecting it. Because up until now, I haven't fully done that.

What if...I had respected these opportunities sooner?

No regrets.

I leave you with Robert Frost's poem, The Road Not Taken, which sends a powerful message:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I choose to take the road less traveled. And what if that makes all the difference?

Blessings to all, and happy reading!

Friday, April 12, 2013

What I've Been Up To

I think the question is, "What haven't I been up to?"

Since January 1, my life has turned crazy-upside-down.

I released the fourth book in my AKM series at the same time I ran a freebie on book one, and Holy Book Sales, Batman! I couldn't keep up. I was selling somewhere around 300 books a day for a while, then dropped to 200 per day by the end of January. And the influx of new fans was incredible! What fun!

Let's see. What else is going on. I've done a couple of blog tours this year, and just finished up the one for my one year anniversary celebration for Rise of the Fallen, book one in the AKM series, which, by the way, has earned quite a few honors since the beginning of the year:

USA Today Recommended Read
Finalist for Parajunkees Best Adult Book 2012
Gravetells' Readers Choice runner up Favorite read in January
Gravetells' Reviewer's Choice for January

The draft for book five of the AKM series, Return of the Assassin, is finished and in the hands of my beta readers, but I have a feeling it will need major work in edits, simply because I got very little quality writing time while drafting that one. It's hard to write a cohesive, flowing novel when you can only write 1,000 words at a time or your brain is just so tired you can hardly think. I've since altered my writing schedule so that I'm writing at my peak. Hopefully that bodes well for ROTA during edits.

I've also begun work on a quartet of books that came at me from out of nowhere, but which have invaded my mind to the point of distraction. This set of stories, about a sexy artist of seduction named Mark Strong, started as a trilogy, then became a duet, went back to a trilogy, and just yesterday, I got a fourth book out of nowhere. So now it's a quartet. But I'm pleased about that, because I didn't feel like the entire story was going to be told in only three books. I already see how the fourth book ends, and I can tell you that I'm much happier with it.

I also joined Romance Writers of  America and their Indiana Chapter, IRWA, and can't believe how much I've already learned in only two meetings. I have another meeting tomorrow, and have signed up to be a coordinator and judge in their annual writing contest.

Additionally, I'm on a quest to write a minimum of 500,000 words this year, and calculated yesterday that I'm about 63,000 words ahead of pace, so I'm stoked about that. Having a job and trying to write can be daunting, but I'm making it work. Somehow. Nothing short of a miracle, but I'm wondering how long I'll be able to keep up this pace. I'm trying to give myself one night off a week, but here I am, on my night off, writing. It might just be my blog, but I'm still working. But that's what you've got to do if you want to make it in this business. Whatever. It. Takes.

Lastly, I'm heading out to RT in Kansas City in two weeks. I can't believe I've waited since last May for this, and here it finally is. My first major book convention. There's still so much to do before I leave, but I think somehow it will all come together.

I'm sure there's more, but right now I'm too tired to remember it all, so I guess I'll go stare at my muse for Mark Strong and mentally prepare for a big writing weekend. One that would be awesome if I could actually finish book one in his quartet. At least the first draft. Woot!

Happy Reading and Writing!