One Writer’s Journey

January 23, 2019

A Writing Plan: Customization is Key

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:55 am
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The key is to find what works for you.

Monday one of the son’s friends found me in the kitchen. He’s a college freshman who, like many freshman, finds himself adjusting his life plans.  In spite of the common knowledge that boys don’t read and boys especially don’t read fiction, he’s an avid reader who loves teen fiction.  We spend some time talking writing and his agony trying to work writing in around college.

Him: I know you’re supposed to write every day but when I get home from work I’m spent.  I can’t write for an hour.

Me: So write for fifteen minutes.

Him: But I can’t get much done in fifteen minutes.

Me (shrug):  You have to find what works for you.

Oh the joys of being new to the trenches and having the well-meaning tell you exactly how you should do it.  Write first thing in the morning.  Keep your butt in the chair no matter what.  Don’t write without an outline. Slap down a first draft – it doesn’t matter how bad it is.

We spent time discussing plotting vs pantsing.  He’s a plotter.  I’m a pantser who tries to plot.

Him:  If I know where I’m going, how it will end, I can craft the perfect opening.

Me:  I have to write to where I’m going and then come back and write the opening.

Him: So my way won’t work?

Me:  Not for me but that doesn’t matter.

Him: What do you mean it doesn’t matter.  You’ve got books and I don’t.

Sigh.  This isn’t a high fantasy adventure with a keep full of gold and one treacherous way in and only one treacherous way in.  There are as many ways to work as there are writers.  Your writing plan needs to be customized to suit you.  And the funniest part?  What works for you  today probably won’t be what works tomorrow.  And that’s okay.

Customization is key.  That’s what makes it your writing plan for where you are now.  Explore.  Fiddle.  Improvise.  And find what works for you. That is, after all, what we writers do.


January 1, 2019

Happy New Year

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 7:31 am
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2019The year never ends quite as expected.  Last year, we planned to borrow a friend’s kids and cook hot dogs in the fireplace before watching movies.  The main stack pipe clogged and my husband finished snaking it about 45 minutes after they got here.  Fortunately, Mom came too and our college son was home.  We ultimately had a great night but really?  Things could go as planned.

This year we planned to be out of town at the lake in the woods.  But this weekend was also the end of deer season.  Hiking seemed like a really bad idea so we stayed home.  Again, we had a great weekend but it wasn’t the weekend we planned to have.

Still, we make plans, even writing plans.

Cozying Up with My Cozy. Ironically, this nonfiction author will be continuing to work on fiction. I started drafting a cozy mystery this year and, as much as I’ve done, I’m a long way from a finished draft. It feels odd as a nonfiction author to spend this much energy writing fiction but I’ll get over it.

Pitching a Series. Not that working on my cozy means that I’ll be giving up on nonfiction. Recently I saw a publisher with a call for nonfiction series for elementary students. I’ve pitched single nonfiction books but never a series so this is going to be a learning experience. It’s a good thing I like learning to do new things!

Graphic Novels. As if one series idea wasn’t enough, I actually have an idea for a second nonfiction series. I don’t have a specific publisher in mind for this one so I’m going to have to explore publishers as well as learn how to write these books.  Why learn how to write the books?  This series will consist of graphic novels. How many graphic novels have I written? Zero. More learning!

Add to this my blogging, my work-for-hire and all the other things that I find myself doing and I’m sure 2019 will be a busy writing year. Cozies, nonfiction series, and graphic novels – oh my!

So what are your plans for 2019?


October 10, 2018

Setting Goals: 5 Steps to Getting the Writing Done

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:22 am
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When you write full-time, people have no problem telling you how lucky you are.  “You get to do what you want every day?”  While that isn’t quite true, I am far too easy for people to find, I do acknowledge that this is pretty awesome.  But it can still be tricky to squeeze the writing in.

Squeeze it in?  You bet.

When you have an eight-hour day and you are working on something tricky, it can be really had to put the writing off.  And then put it off some more.  And then it’s bed time and look how clean the windows are!

With that in mind, here are five steps to help you meet your writing goals.

  1.  Set concrete goals.  Yes, that’s right.  Oddly enough, to meet goals you have to set goals.  Strange but true.  Your goals also have to be concrete.  Not “I am going to write this week” but I am going to write 15 minutes a day, Monday through Friday.”  Make it straightforward so that you know you have been successful.
  2. Know what works.  This may take some time. Write down the goals that you set.  Write down what you managed to accomplish.  Then take a look at what worked.  Some people do better with word count goals.  “Write 200 words a day.”  Others need a time frame.  “Write for 15 minutes.”  Others need what I call writing specific goals.  “Finish a draft of my new picture book.”  “Write 2 chapters of my novel.”
  3. Evaluate.  Once you’ve worked toward your goals for a week or two, review them.  Are they working?  If not, try something different.  I can’t coffee shop write.  It is too distracting.  A friend can’t write at home.  The quiet is annoying.  If things are working, that’s good.  If not, try something new.
  4. Look for positives.  As you work to set your goals, look for the things that work well.  If you are a morning writing, set a goal to write in the morning.  If you need an outline before you write, include this in your goals.  Work with your strengths.
  5. Adjust upward.  As you develop a writing habit, nudge your goals upward.  Try to write for a longer period.  Try to write one more day a week.

Just remember to be realistic.  I remember reading that an author I idolized wrote 5 days a week, 8 hours a day. As a new writer, I found this very discouraging.  I was doing good to write for 20 minutes!  That was before I developed a solid writing habit.

Find what works for you.  Adjust it as you go.  Soon you’ll be adding words and pages to your count and making progress.



March 9, 2015

Setting Goals: Combine both short and long term goals

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:56 am
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goal postsAre you a writer who sets goals?  I am but it may just be a byproduct of my somewhat anal personality.  When I enter my office Monday, I want to know what I’m going to be working on over the course of the week.  Not that that is always what happens but if I don’t set any goals, I don’t tend to get anything done.

If you haven’t been particularly productive, why not try setting some goals?  You might also consider setting goals if you’re writing income isn’t what you want it to be.   I use a combination of what I consider short-term goals and long-term goals.  I have both short and long-term writing goals as well as short and long-term financial goals.

Long term writing goals are big projects like a book.  This week, I’m finishing up the book that I will workshop at the upcoming Missouri SCBWI writers retreat.  I just agreed to write another book for Red Line.  That’s a long-term goal.

Short term writing goals are the steps to these long-term goals as well as shorter projects like brief articles or single craft activities to submit to a new market.

Then there are my short and long-term financial goals.  Short term financial goals are the ones that will bring in one check and one check only.  Red Line is a short-term goal because that is a work-for-hire project.  The writing a do for falls under this same category.

Long term financial goals pay in royalties.  This money is less certain because the sales have to be there for the check to come in but there is also the potential for long-term gain.  Because I can earn royalties on these sales, they hold the possibility of multiple checks into the future.  The books I have coming out from Schoolwide?  Those are long-term financially because they pay in royalties.  I want to be able to pay my bills nows but I’d also like to have money coming in to pay next month’s bills.

Do you set long and short-term goals?  If not, what kinds of goals do you set?



October 6, 2014

Prioritizing My Writing

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:39 am
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Setting prioritiesLast Friday, I met my deadline for Before I broke for lunch, I sent off 30 activities, 13 photos and 4 supplemental files.

I didn’t have any more deadlines on my calendar.  The post-lunch plan was to finish my blog posts for this week, plan the next chapter in my latest nonfiction project, and pick my topics for educational nonfiction for the University of Kansas Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation.  They are currently taking submissions of nonfiction and fiction for two different projects and you can submit up to five pieces.

That was my plan when I want to lunch.

By the time I came back to my desk, I had an e-mail from my contact at Red Line.  Would I be willing to write a book for a new series?

As quick as that, my priorities shifted because my answer was “You bet!”  As of Friday, midafternoon, I’m writing a book on Pearl Harbor.

Do you set weekly writing goals?  If I don’t, I don’t get much done.

That said, I try to be flexible. If I’m working on something that doesnt’ have a deadline and an editor offers me money to write something else, I generally say YES.  After all, writing is how I make a living.  That means that writing that comes with a paycheck attached generally takes priority.

Generally.  Every once in a while I’m offered a job that simply doesn’t interest me or will be far more work than is warrented by the paycheck.

There are always “personal” pieces that I am writing not because I have a contract but because I simply have to write them. I  try to make it a priorty to make at least some progress on my current “personal project” every week.  On weeks that I’m on deadline, I may not finish much on this project but I try to do a little.

How do you prioritize your writing?


February 4, 2014

Goals: How are you doing with your 2014 goals?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:52 am
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Goals 2014Just popping in to ask you how you are doing with your 2014 writing goals.

I set three different monthly goals and one year long goal for myself —

  1. Submit a target dollar amount each month (monthy);
  2. Send out an old manuscript (monthly);
  3. Send out a new manuscript (monthly).
  4. Work on a manuscript I am passionate about.

Goal #1 was a success but just barely.  I may have to alter this goal for the summer months.  Or, by then, I might be better at targeting markets that pay well.  We will have to see how this one pans out.

For goal #2, I sent out one of the picture books that I rewrote on Picture Book Idea month.  The changes I made weren’t huge in that I replaced two spreads.  That’s it.  But my husband noticed the changes immediately.

Goal #3 was met when I submitted a batch of Valentine’s Day activities to

Goal #4 was not my greatest success.  I requested and picked up two library books.  That was it.  Blah.  I need to sit down and read them next week and reread the comments from my critique group.  Then I’ll be ready to get back to work.

I try to review my yearly goals about once a month.  If I wait much longer than that, it can be difficult to get back on track.

How are you coming with your goals for 2014?


December 30, 2013

New Year’s Resolutions: Writing Goals

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:26 am
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GoalsDid you attain the writing goals that you set for 2013?  I did and, because of it, I’ve got some good things coming along in 2014.  I’ll report on those as soon as I can.

Over the years, my goals have changed.  At one point, my goal was to submit a query, proposal or manuscript/month.  Then that increased to two/month.   Unfortunately, queries are easier to send out than completed manuscripts (especially if you don’t need to have the manuscript done).  That means that when I was feeling lazy, I learned to send out queries vs. completing manuscripts.  Bad writer!

You can’t finish manuscripts without writing so then I set word count goals.  I’m really good at first drafts — I can pound out text without stopping to edit or tinker with things until they’re perfect.  Write, write, write.  But than doesn’t mean that things are going out the door.

This lead to me to my goals for 2013.  I had to submit a specific dollar amount/month.  Yes, it sounds mercenary.  But is also makes sense if you are trying to make a living with your writing.  If you set a goal of two manuscripts out/month, they can just as easily go to markets that pay only in copies vs those that pay a really good rate.  You may get credits and build a resume but you aren’t going to earn a living.

Since this type of goal worked for me in 2013, I am going to more-or-less repeat it with a few modifications.  I am going to increase my dollar amount by 50%.  I’m also going to set a goal of getting one old manuscript back out each month as well as one new manuscript.  Obviously, these won’t all be book manuscripts but they also won’t all be short materials.

To read more about resolutions in your writing life, check out my post today on the Muffin.


April 15, 2013

Writing Goals

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:13 am
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calendarHow go your goals for 2013?

I’d love to say that I’m 100% on track, but it isn’t true.

I’m doing amazingly well with my word count goals.  I meet or exceed my goal (6000 words/week) most weeks, even weeks when everyone is at home.

Where I’m not doing as well is my dollar goal.  I have a goal to submit $1000/month.  That is a combination of both things requested by my various editors as well as slush pile submissions.  As of this moment, I’ve met my February goal.

Yep, that bad.

What exactly is my problem?  Queries don’t count.  It also doesn’t count when I pitch 20 craft and activity ideas to my editor.  It only counts when I submit the article itself.

I’m getting the queries out.  I’m pitching the ideas but one of my editors has put a freeze on freelance submissions.  That was a big hit on my total.

I’m teaching.  I haven’t been adding that into my total although I am earning income through my class.

I’m also working on more book length projects.  Astonishingly enough, it takes long to write a book, even a picture book, than it does to write an article.  I can put a lot of hours into a book project and it may boost my word count but it does nothing for the second goal.

That said, I do have 2 finished books and one series proposal ready to go out the door.  And I pulled some work (five devotionals) from an anthology.  The acquiring editor originally offered us a very low payment but when the publisher decided not to give him any advance at all, he told us that there would be no money.  Ummmm.  No.  I can’t pay the light bill with a warm fuzzy feeling so I’ll be selling first rights to someone else as soon as I find them.    I just need to find time to do it.

5 devotionals + 2 books + 1 series proposal.  I think I can . . . I think I can.


January 22, 2013

Why NOT to Share Your Writing Goals

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:57 am
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Are you one of those writers who shares every single story idea before you start working on it?  If you watched this video, you may be wondering if that’s such a good idea.   I’m still trying to decide how I feel about it.

It seems like you would have to know yourself as an artist to know if this is a good idea or not.  Here are 6 questions that you should ask yourself:

  1. If I tell someone about my story, does it feel like all of the energy has gone out of the project?
  2. Why am I telling other people about my work?
  3. Do I need to bounce ideas off other people to work through them?
  4. I know a number of writers who discuss each and every project in great detail before they get a word down.  Some of them then go on to write the book. Other, don’t.
  5. Which goals to I finish — those I announce vs those I don’t.
  6. If I discuss a project, are there people in my life who will hold me accountable?

Thank you to Alison Pearce Stevens for sharing the link to this video.  It has definitely given me something to think about!


December 21, 2012

Do You Have the Guts to Try Something New in 2013?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:17 am
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We’re about to head into a new writing year.  How you play it is your choice.  Are you going to do things the same way that you did in 2012 and, most likely, 2011?  Or are you going to shake up your writing life and try something new?

I’m not going to lie to you.  Convincing yourself to strike out in a new direction probably won’t be easy.  After all, writing is pretty darn challenging as it is.  As writers we face constantly changing markets, editors moving from one house to another and new technologies.   With so much change you can’t control, forcing yourself to seek out even more change probably doesn’t sound like the best possible idea.

But think about it.  At one time, Simone Elkeles was a writer of adult romances.  She had never, ever penned a word for teens.   Now, she has 8 novels for teens.  What if she had never tried writing for young adults?

Last year I set a new kind of goal for myself.  I usually avoid monetary goals since you can’t guarantee that you will earn a certain amount of money in a set time.  This year I set a monetary goal that I could achieve.  In addition to writing 6000 words a week, I was going to submit $1000 worth of material each month.

I’m on track to hit $11,379 for the year.  If I manage one more submission, I’ll be up to $11,879.  No, that isn’t how much I’ve earned this year but I have earned more than in the last five years, recession or no.

I also wanted to teach again and I found a new host for my nonfiction for children class.  I will be teaching Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults  starting in February of 2013.

If I hadn’t set new goals for myself, I wouldn’t have achieved these things.

So, what can you do in 2013?  I’m going to be working on some book manuscripts but I’m also going to seriously start looking at agents.  Not that that search is proving easy.  There are simply too many variables.  Alas, this will probably mean a spread sheet (insert heart-felt shudder).    But if I set a goal for myself, I know I’ll make progress that otherwise would never happen.

So, what about you?  Take  a deep breath and consider the possibilities.  And remember — at one time books were the new scary thing on the block (see the video below).


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