Authors usually do these year-end review things in December … but I’m including my plan for 2018, so January seems a better fit.
2017 was a decent year for me. I published Privateer and Spacer (in the Orphans in the Black anthology) and finally, after years of trying, settled into a really productive writing regime that’s starting to pay off bigly.
Spacer is an expansion of Wronged, which you can get for free signing up for my mailing list, and is the start of another series set in the Alexis Carew universe, called Spacer, Smuggler, Pirate, Spy. Those being the quartet of books planned for the story.
From the actual writing standpoint, though, 2017, at least the first half, was less than I’d hoped for. I went into with the intention, the desire, the plan, to write every day and average 1000 words a day. I didn’t get there at all. In fact, the first quarter wasn’t worth squat.
There are a lot of excuses that can be made when an author isn’t writing, but that first quarter lull can be ticked off to laziness and lack of good habits. In 2016 I’d established a good/bad habit of writing really well on vacations — the time away from home got things flowing well — but that leaves all those days at home to not trigger the writing flow.
I got back to it because I had to — I’d committed Spacer to the anthology and didn’t want to let the organizer down. Especially since it was the first anthology I’d been invited to. Reputations and all that.
So I got Spacer done and started writing more, but those big upticks in word count through May were still mostly time off. I do get a lot of vacation time from my day job, eight weeks because I’ve been here twenty years.
Something else happened, though, which led to finishing the year strong.
I would typically get up early and go into work equally early, allowing me to leave in the early afternoon. (I am not a night-guy.) But we had a policy change that said I had to be in the office from 9-5. This left 7ish to 9ish, my most productive, alert hours, idle.
So instead of dedicating that production to the day-job, I firmly established a writing zone upstairs in my loft (instead of on the couch where the TV is so tempting) and went up there every morning. Well, not every morning at the start, but enough that the habit started getting more and more established and it trained my brain that when we are in this place at this time it is the thing to do to write words.
So Spacer finished, then Privateer finished, then really buckled down on Of Dubious Intent, because it’s been in-process since 2014, and finally, in late September, things clicked.
The last quarter of the year, October to December, saw some of the most productive writing I’ve ever had. I wrote 96,000 words in one 30-day period during this time, and 5500 in one day.
I finished Of Dubious Intent, which will release in March, finished what will be either the first in a new series or the first three — depending on how it’s released — and got started on Alexis Carew #6, still untitled.
Leaving the Carew series (except for plotting) for a couple months and not moving right into #6 was a good decision too. It let me get the stories for Of Dubious Intent and the other series out of my head — they’ve been sitting there, half-finished or never started, for years, with the nagging doubt that I’d ever get to finish them. Now I’m heading into AC#6 with fresh eyes, a sense of accomplishment, and a real desire to continue Alexis’ story as well as the others.
In 2017 I only managed to write on 174 days, but wrote over 300k words on those days. I also passed 1-million words written, between the books, shorts, essays, and to-be-published works since I started writing with the intent to sell in 2013. That’s a significant milestone and I’m glad I hit it — coincidentally right on December 31st.
So now we’re heading into 2018 …
That’s my daily writing spreadsheet, and tracks daily progress, as well as goals and projected completion dates, plus metrics because I’m a data geek.
So as of today, if we look in the column headed AC#6, that’s the next Carew book and I’ve competed nearly 14000 words, or 11% of the expected 125k word length. It maybe longer or shorter than that, and I’ll adjust the expected length as I get closer to finishing and can project it better, but both Nightingale and Privateer were in the 125k range.
There’s also a date in that column of 4/25/18 — that’s not so much a deadline as a projected completion date. Meaning if I average 1000 words a day, every day, then I’ll hit the target length on that date.
That’s a words-complete date, not a release date, so don’t get excited.
After that comes editing, so about a month of me reading through it more than once in the afternoons and tweaking things, which is when it will go up for preorder, then my fiance will do her edits (another month) then my main editor (two weeks) and then I will give the edited manuscript to Elizabeth for narration (another month) and then we’ll have a release.
The two columns Rocks and Rocks#2 are the new series that doesn’t have a name yet, and DA #2 is the sequel to Of Dubious Intent — all of which are looking to be words-complete this year, even if the next bit of that “Rocks” series won’t release until 2019.
My goals for 2018 are:
- Write on 300+ days.
- Average 1000 words per day, for over 300,000 words.
- Finish and publish Carew #6
- Finish and publish Dark Artifice #2
- Finish the next installment of the ill-titled “Rocks” series, either as a single book or shorter entries as a trilogy in the series, depending on how that works out.
- Start on Carew #7
On a slightly different note, being the financial side of things, I’ve long had a goal of quitting the day job and writing full time. In 2018 I’ve purchased a house and will be moving in come April, then after that I hope to live off the book income with the exception of health insurance and the mortgage. Both of those will come out of the day job paycheck, with the remainder of that paycheck being split between savings and paying off the mortgage faster.
The purpose of this plan is to pay off the house quickly, thus reducing monthly expenses and making it easier to live full-time off the book income for everything. Once I can do that, and write full-time, productivity should be even better — and I’m really looking forward to that.
So that’s the plan. 🙂
I know there are some Carew readers who’d prefer to have Carew after Carew after Carew releases, but the diversity of series both lets me write Carew better and will pick up new readers — which translates into full-time writing sooner, which brings more of all the series quicker. It’s a positive feedback loop. 🙂
I’m also going to try to post more on this blog, especially about the progress — both so my readers can follow what’s going on and hold me accountable. If I put out a words-written graph with another big flatline and no explanation, feel free to email nags at me until I get back on track. 😀
And fight like Carew would
And happy new year
Thanks! I hope your New Year went well and continues to. 🙂
This post, which could be called “Hello Discipline,” is an eye opener for any would-be artist.
I still suggest cloning as a viable strategy to increase writing output. To balance production with my consumption rate, I suggest 90 clones should suffice, though you may need to add a few clones to manage the other clones…
Yep. It’s about carving out the time for these things and jealously guarding it. I’m not at a point where if I *don’t* write in the morning, I feel antsy about it. Which is very, very good.
I’m not sure, though, if I could handle living with a clone of me, much less several … I’d have to keep them in little boxes and feed them through a slot …
I’m a bit of an ass to live with, me. 😀
Keep up the good work. I’m living in my fourth consecutive mortgage free home-the liberation is worth the sacrifice. I have long suspected that a few authors used travel to feed their muse, and to expense out their vacations. I suppose it is harder to call earthly travel necessary research for Alexis Carew sci-fi stories though Rick Riordan writes off all travel as business expense.
Work ethic is work ethic and respecting yourself as a writer with real work to do is the first step to professionalism.
I truly admire how you have brought my childhood love for Horatio Hornblower, Robinson Caruso, and Long John Silver, into such a vibrant steampunk future that is every bit as real as those earlier works.
I’ve been debt-free except for small items that made sense and housing for several years, and its very liberating. I highly recommend it and can’t wait for housing to be part of that.
I absolutely use travel — and can usually make it relevant. Just museums and such refill the creative well — or a cabin in the mountains for solitude and time to write. Most of those sharp upticks on the graph were such.
Thank you for the kind words — I’m glad you’re enjoying Alexis’ story.
I have really enjoyed the Carew books but am looking forward to Intent. I appreciate when a successful writer pulls back the curtain and gives the reader a peek at how the magic happens. Stay well and keep the stories coming.
Thank you — I’m glad you’re enjoying Alexis’ story. I like it when other writers pull back the curtain, too, because it gives me ideas to implement. 🙂
I like the Carew series, but I agree with your plan; too many authors of successful series simply run out of ideas. More and more, their plots devolve into fantasy. New challenge, new magical (or super-science) solution. Repeat.
Take some time off, write in a different universe.
That’s what I’ll be doing this coming year. I’ll finish the new WIP (part of my Darwin’s World Series), then write a novel that’s set in my Wizards Series (but with new and different characters), then one in the New Frontiers Series (ditton characters). That’s what I did in the beginning, and I wrote a LOT that first couple of years and enjoyed what I was doing.
Lately, though I’m doing all right financially, joy has turned into work. I’d like to get back to the joy part.
I think the joy-part comes through in the writing and makes it better for the reader too. Plus the other universes can create a kind of synergy where you’re thinking about characters and events but come up with one that doesn’t quite fit in what you’re writing but would be *perfect* for this other thing over here.
So…. You are a counter. Nothing wrong with being a counter. Good way to motivate motion toward goals. But keeping track of your spreadsheets would be a full time job for me, one that I would fail at. However, it is really good news for me that you are churning out more good things for me to read. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I am absolutely a data geek and metrics guy. I don’t always like what the numbers tell me, but I enjoy tracking them. 😀 Thanks for reading — I’ll try to keep them coming! 🙂
I’m one of the Carew, Carew, Carew people but I understand that mixing things up a bit could be beneficial to the story and possibly make it so you don’t burn out on Alexis.
I love how you share a lot of the details that some authors don’t talk about like finances and the inner workings of amazon.
You should look in to K.A. Finn’s Ares as a possible future recommendation. I love her stories and the world she created.
I just added Ares to my TBR pile, thanks for the recommendation! 🙂
Alexis Carew is in line to succeed Honor Harrington as the successor to Hornblower! Keep up the good work!
I enjoyed Wronged! So more please!
Thanks! I think Honor’s place is secure, but Alexis’ll be happy with everyone reading her story and enjoying it. 🙂
For me, Alexis has alrady surpassed Honor. Honor was great the first couple of books, with action and things happening. But then it morphed into a couple of pages of action followed by this long drawn out conversation discussing the event by people from Manticore followed by another long drawn out conversation discussing the same event from the Haven perspective. He spent two books building up to a space battle to occur in book 11 where he only devoted 5-6 pages describing it which felt like a naration of the event with no sense of excitement. Probably one of the most frustrating series for me to read. I really struggled to finish it starting at about book 7 or 8. Alexis is great because you are skilled at imbuing a sense of excitement into the stories whick makes me want to stay up late to finish the book. With Honor, I’m more inclined to take a nap to give myself a break.
I have to agree with you. I’m now on Honor book 7 and starting to have problems with too much discussion! It’s been fun, as I’m also a Harrington by birth, going all the way back to the NW English town of Harrington on the coast below Scotland. I’ll continue to struggle with Honor until the next Alexis comes out! Thank you Mr. Sutherland!
worthy goals, good luck on the writing this year. i will be looking forward to the next book in the alexis carew series whenever you complete it to your satisfaction.
Thanks for reading and the good wishes. 🙂
Diversifying is the way to go when you self publish. Look at Nuttall, he’s a six figure author, writing both Science Fiction and Fantasy. His publishing rate is crazy though.
Nuttall is a force of freaking nature. 🙂
Looking forward to CR #6 , I am finishing up CR #5 and will prob finish tonight. Almost finished last night ” it’s very hard to put down esp during the battle but I had to sleep lol”. I love your story and style of writing. Keep up the good work .
Thank you. 🙂 #6 is coming along nicely.
Dear Mr. Sutherland,
As you may expect, I am another Alexis Carew fan. Happily awaiting #6, and any other stories you provide.
I received a Kindle Reader early last year and have read somewhere between 110 and 150 books in this time period.
Carew has been a favorite!
Thank you for your stories!
81 year old fan: Bruce Harrington
Thanks for reading, Bruce. I’m thrilled you like Alexis’ story so much. 🙂
For another good David Weber read, try his “Safehold” Series. I just got the latest hardback. Lots of good old Ocean war tales.
I’m enjoying “Spacer!” Just a heads up, there’s no entry on your “Books” page, and the link for “Wronged” goes to “page not found” at Amazon. Any idea when the next one in the series will be out?
(I just saw your post about pre-orders, and fwiw from the peanut gallery, I hate em. They are literally teasers. I can’t read it, I can’t even read a sample, and they tease me about something interesting that won’t be available for months. I always feel they would have more impact if they could be bought right now.)
I’ve recently discovered Alexis Carew through Amazon Prime, and hard as it is to wait when all you want to do is devour the story, I completely respect your process. Very excited to see where she goes – almost done with HMS Nightingale. Thanks so much for sharing your stories with the world!
Looking forward to AC6 and smuggler! Hope your plans work out!
Came across the first Alexis Carew novel on Bookbub then just had to continue buying each book until I read Privateer aagh last of the series. Now having to wait for the next in the series hopefully not for too long.
Is the sequel to Planetfall out there for us to voraciously consume? I just finished that story, and saw in the author’s notes at the end that you were planning on Part 2 to be out sometime in the last couple of years. I don’t find it in a search of Amazon.