Personal Log: Changes (a 2022 Planning Blog, pt. 1)

Sitting down to write as the last thing that I do before bed isn’t great. I’d rather be doing it first thing. Somehow, I keep letting that habit slip away from me. It’s something to work on as we approach the new year. I can take 15 minutes or so early in the morning and write. Then I can go about the rest of the day secure in the knowledge that my writing streak has continued even if I don't write more. Instead, it nags at me.

Today, for example. It was a work day and I updated visualizations, answered employee questions, and edited the website. I also spent time on my breaks working on courses and learning. Despite all of that, the day felt more incomplete because I hadn’t written. I want to address that. I’m happier if I write.

What I often find, though, is that my thoughts go to other things that I need to do each day. Often that’s work. I’m a fulltime librarian. For most of my career, I’ve been in supervisory or managerial positions. Now I'm making a big change and moving over to the IT side of the library. It means giving up pay increases and the status of my current position. In return, I’m gaining an increased focus, less stress, and so many opportunities to learn and serve the library patrons and staff. Even though the job remains mentally demanding, I think it’ll also free up my thoughts enough to make more room for my writing, learning, and other projects.

I love learning. That’s often a distraction from my writing. I have a ton of courses that I want to work through right now. I’ve purchased many of the courses. Many of the creators use Teachable as their platform. Others are on Udemy. I also have courses that I’m doing through library-offered platforms like LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com).

One course that I’m working on right now is Learning Python taught by Joe Marini. I have some experience with Python and have posted a bit about using Python before on my blog to generate titles. I haven’t gained mastery of Python and decided to work through the Python Learning Path on LinkedIn Learning. If you haven’t checked, I recommend you see what online learning options are offered by your local library for patrons. Many do offer access to such learning platforms covering a wide range of topics.

Many of the courses I’m taking are on digital art, 3D modeling, and writing. I’ve also got courses I’m doing to improve my data and visualization expertise. And other developer courses. A focus on learning is a key part of my 2022 plan. There’s always more to learn.

I’m reading a book recommended at work, Think Again by Adam Grant. “The power of knowing what you don’t know.” Even when I’m doing well at something, I don’t cease in striving to learn more. There’s no end. That's the fun. Whether it is through books, courses, or working with mentors—I continue to learn and rethink what I'm doing.

The last two years have been the first two parts of the COVID-19 trilogy. We ended 2020 with the bright hope of vaccines. Hope that crashed down in the long middle of 2021, which now ends with the Omicron variant spreading rapidly in our communities.

I don’t know what 2022 will bring. Maybe there’ll be a second trilogy that follows the first. Whatever happens, I want to share what I’m learning and my progress in my journey as a librarian who writes science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, and more. I hope you’ll join me.

© grandfailure

The Death of 2020

We’ve had an impossible, rock-bottom kind of year. If anyone had pitched a story with everything that has happened in 2020, they probably would have been told to cut it back. Not have so much happening in a single year.

I have a lot that I want to say about the year, more than I can possibly write in a single post. I’m sure people are and will be writing books about the New Twenties for a long time to come.

Why the New Twenties? Because it isn’t over. Not by a long shot. We’ve seen the inciting incident in 2020. That’s all. Now we’re about to step over the threshold into 2021 and find out how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Now

Tomorrow, as I write this, is the Winter Solstice. The shortest day of the year. Where I live in the Pacific Northwest, It’s already dark outside. We had rain and wind yesterday that brought down trees across roads and scattered branches from the Douglas Firs. I’m fortunate. We have a home. A regular pay check. Our health. People we know have caught covid-19 and recovered, but we’ve been okay. I’ve had a couple false alarms when I thought I might have covid-19, but the tests came back negative.

Right now, this very moment, I’m sitting in my office. My dog is asleep on the other chair in front of my desk. I’m using a Freewrite Traveler on my lap to write while he snores. Before this I finished writing a scene on my current novel.

Out in the other room we have a tree set up, presents beneath it.

I know how fortunate we are. Despite what we have, we also have debts. As the income-provider, if I had gotten seriously sick it could jeopardize everything. We’re not prepared for months without income. We’ve managed this year, skating on very thin ice, seeing it break for so many people.

The end of the year suggests a fresh beginning. I always find it a hopeful time of the year as I make plans for the year ahead.

This year isn’t going down without a fight. Even with the hope of vaccines to help with the pandemic, the scope of the crisis means that people are dying in unthinkable numbers every day. Here in the United States we have an outgoing administration that has behaved terribly in ways that threaten our democracy and each day brings previously unthinkable actions that seemed aimed at causing the most destruction possible.

These are the death throes of this year. The criminal actions of this administration. There are people who want civil war in this country. It’s terrifying. The slow roll-out of vaccinations means that the pandemic will continue to claim lives for many months ahead. The damage to our institutions will also take a long time to address. It feels as if the gains that were made when I was young have been pushed back.

I’ve been fortunate, but I don’t know what is going to happen in 2021. I’m not sure that it’ll be a better year. I hope so, but I didn’t have any idea what was going to happen this year. Not really.

Given that I don’t know, I’m going to take the hopeful view that things will improve. I’m setting ambitious goals for next year. A lot more stories, books, and artwork is coming.

Because when it comes to a year like 2020 (or any year, really), I need to focus on the things that I can do, that I have control over.

Those are the goals that matter. When it comes to our financial situation, I’m working to budget ahead. It’ll take time, but I’m working to try and get to the point where we have everything covered a month ahead. Then two months, then more. I’ve worked 27 years for the library district, but it doesn’t mean that things won’t change. A lot of libraries were forced to lay people off this year.

I’m writing more. It’s not only fun, but it’s a priority. I’m aiming to write one million words next year.

New Year Dreams

So, one million words next year. It won’t all be fiction, but I do want to write much more fiction. I’ve only just finished the first draft of a new novel that is about 131,000 words long. It’s the longest book I’ve written. The final word count will change after edits, but it will remain a long book. The first in the series. And I plan to write more books in the series in 2021.

I have multiple series books to write, or finish for publication. Including book 5 in my Moreau Society series. I don’t have a release date yet, but Synthetic Pain will be coming out in 2021.

I want to write more short fiction next year too, and you’ll see some of that appear here and on Patreon along with other stories that I’ve written.

Novels and short stories will account for most of the one million words planned, but there will be posts like this one too, journaling, marketing copy, and other projects. It’ll be a big jump in productivity if I can pull it off. And I’m sure that I’ll do better than I would setting a goal that doesn’t require me to stretch as much.

Thanks as always, for your support on Patreon. I love to hear from you. Your support makes it possible for me to push to reach new goals like this.

Big Time Bundle

Big Time Bundle

Remember the excitement of starting a new year, a decade ago when 2020 began?

Reading gives us all a gateway to a different reality. Maybe it's a scary reality. Or an alternate reality. And couldn't we all use an alternate reality about now?

Librarians love recommending books. Book talks are in our DNA. Our go-to question whether we're with a close friend, at a dinner party, on a first date, or with anyone of any age at any time, is “what are you reading?” Our second is, “have you read…?”

Have you read books by Kristine Kathryn Rusch? Robert J. Sawyer? Lisa Silverthorne? What about DeAnna Knippling, or Dean Wesley Smith?

Check out the Big Time bundle from StoryBundle before the offer ends. It includes all of those—and more—amazing authors. I've also got a book in the bundle. Ten excellent books to escape into for the last few months of the year.

Support the Big Time Bundle

Step

01

Visit the Big Time Bundle page and check out the books by these fantastic writers.

Step

02

Decide what you pay for the bundle, how much goes to the writers and Storybundle.

Step

03

Buy the bundle and enjoy the escape into different worlds, times, and realities.

For so many of us this year, it's hard to escape the awful reality. We've seen homes destroyed by fires, people displaced, everything lost. With this bundle you also have the opportunity to support the Oregon Food Bank to help people on the ground in need in a specific location. I spent days breathing the smoke from the fires, but that's nothing compared to what people have been through who were directly impacted. You can help those people.

All e-books are DRM-free. Put them on your favorite reading device. Settle back with a favorite beverage and enjoy a timeless escape.

Week 4: How’d It Go Wrong?

I changed the week numbering and updated the previous post titles. I'm writing these posts to report on the previous week, but I was numbering them as if it was the current week. The image would show the correct week number but it didn't match the post title. That's all fixed now.

How'd this week go so wrong​​​​? Read on to find out.

Writing Successes

I'd adjusted my priorities last week and…

  • Sunday. Errands and lunch took up a chunk of the day. I sat down and wrote last week's blog post. I didn't get around to writing until late and only added 250 words to Synthetic Pain.
  • Monday. Nothing going on today. I spent time playing Minecraft and watching TV. I ended up adding 496 words to Synthetic Pain.
  • Tuesday. Back to work today. I ended up so focused on my work I kept going through breaks. I did stop for a little while to eat lunch and write 370 words on Synthetic Pain.
  • Wednesday.  I went out to visit folks at our Ocean Park library on the coast. The day was wet and very rainy. I took some breaks, though, stopped on the way out (it's almost 3 hours to drive to the library) at a historic marker on the coast to write for a few minutes. I spent more time writing on my lunch break. I ended up with 872 words for the day on Synthetic Pain, but was exhausted by the end of the day.
  • Thursday. Normal day, except my energy was very low. I added 192 words to Synthetic Pain.
  • Friday. Teleworked for the first part of the day, until I needed to use my computer at the office. Focused on my data work. I never did take time to write.
  • Saturday. Another day visiting libraries, in Raymond and Westport. Skipped breaks, and didn't write.

So what went wrong? It isn't accurate to say that I lacked energy. I focused my energy into work and other activities instead of writing. When I skip breaks that doesn't help either. I get tired. It's a challenge balancing it all.

OKR Confidence Ratings

My lack of progress this week hasn't helped my confidence in my OKRs. It makes me think that I need to refocus and reconsider what I'm doing. I've tended to only focus on writing (when I have time to do anything). I haven't spent much time working on any of the other OKRs. Maybe I need to revisit my objectives and set an OKR for the quarter? A single focus might help. I might do other things as time allows.

The OKRs I'd come up with before were all annual objectives. An OKR should be hard but not impossible. I get caught up with what I think I should do and should is a dangerous word. My ambition exceeds my available energy. It's difficult to let that go, but I think it's necessary. I've been working on Synthetic Pain for a long time, at least it seems that way. I should focus on getting it done and allow other things to happen as time and energy allows.

With that in mind, I'm going to list my new OKR for this quarter and stick to that. Let's see if I can finish the book before April.

Finish Writing Synthetic Pain

Key Results

  • Write each daily, minimum 500 words per day.
  • Completed novel is at least 80,000 words long.
  • Write final cover copy.
  • Create final cover artwork.

I'm keeping my confidence ratings at the 50/50 point or close to it right now. I have 65 days until the end of the quarter. If I only hit the minimum that'll be 32,500 words added to my existing word count (~50,000). That'd get the novel at the length I'm targeting. Let's see if I can stick to that right now. If I can finish the novel by the end of the quarter and have the cover copy and artwork, that'll be great.

I'm not setting priorities for the week—the new OKR does that. I'll still review how I'm doing each week.

Week 3: Writing While Sick

This week turned out to be hit and miss. I didn't write several days—yet ended up writing more this week than last. I added 7,397 words to Synthetic Pain. I'm pretty happy with that.

Writing Successes

Last week I set priorities to write early, adding words to my novel before work, spend time in the evenings on publishing and marketing, write a new short story, submit stories to magazines, and publish a new story on Patreon. I even created a print version of my priorities to post where I could see them.

How'd I do?

  • Sunday. Published weekly update. Added 513 words to Synthetic Pain. I created a printed version and posted that above the computer and on the wall as I head out so I see it and am reminded of my priorities.
  • Monday. A bit of snow fell last night, maybe a half-inch. Temperatures stayed above freezing so it's all gone now. It'll get cold tonight so there might be some ice and more snow tomorrow morning. We've been fighting this bug so we weren't going anywhere. It ended up being a more productive writing day with 1,588 words added to Synthetic Pain, stories sent out to magazines, 597 words written on a new short story, and some progress on my other priorities.
  • Tuesday. We woke to more snow this morning, which meant late starts for local schools and some libraries. I added some words to Synthetic Pain before work, more at lunch, and still more words in the evening after dinner for a total of 1,672 words before calling it a day. With low energy levels I left it at that and went to bed early.
  • Wednesday. My fatigue continued on into the morning as I had difficulty even getting up. I only had time to get ready and leave for work. The day involved visiting a library out on the coast which meant hours of driving, no real breaks, and no opportunity to write. By the time I made it home I was exhausted and again went to bed early.
  • Thursday. I woke up with more energy this morning and decided to stop at Starbucks for a iced guava green tea and a writing session before work. I was in my office today which made it easier to schedule breaks and I added 2,109 words to Synthetic Pain! I also added 417 words to the short story I'm writing.
  • Friday. Early start to the day though I didn't feel as energetic, but I needed to take our dog to the vet. He suffers from skin irritation/allergies and needs regular medication to try and manage it. Then off to work! I found a little time to write before I left this morning and again at lunch, and once more in the evening. I added 1,515 words to Synthetic Pain in those three sessions.
  • Saturday. The fatigue I've been feeling was back this morning. I was teleworking, which saved driving in to the office. Before starting work, I set up Printful with my site so I could offer t-shirts and other items directly. It's a quick setup. I didn't really take breaks during the day and by the time I finished I was mentally and physically exhausted. I never did sit down to write.

I took two days off this week, Wednesday and Saturday. Both days when my energy levels waned. Still a more productive week than the previous week, so that's progress. Plus, I added the ability to sell t-shirts and other items directly through my store, so that was another unplanned win. I also sent out stories, started a new short story, and worked on publishing tasks. Mostly a good week.

OKR Confidence Ratings

I'm feeling pretty good this week. I've faced some of my limitations and managed to do fairly well.

Write fantastic novels

Key Results

  • Write 1,500 words (minimum) per day.
  • 40,000 words (minimum) each month on the current novel.
  • Complete 6 novels in 2020.

My average word count for the week increased, which I think justifies keeping confidence levels high for this OKR.

Write Amazing Short STories

Key Results

  • Write 500 words (minimum) per day.
  • Complete a finished short story bi-weekly (26 stories).
  • Submit or publish each finished story within one week.

I started a new story this week. It isn't finished yet, but it's a step in that direction. I also sent out several stories that had been languishing in my outbox to magazine markets. I'm keeping my confidence levels the same.

Achieve success with my novels

Key Results

  • 12 novels released on my store and retail stores.
  • Average 10 sales per day, per title.
  • Match my income from my full-time librarian job.

I don't feel like my confidence levels have changed much. There hasn't been any changes to improve my confidence. 

Build a Community of Engaged Readers

Key Results

  • Readinary newsletter subscribers increase by 25%.
  • Broadcast open rate averages 60%.
  • Click rate averages 10%.
  • Reach 250 Patreon subscribers.

I didn't really take any actions this week to make progress on this OKR. Still, I don't feel like I've lost confidence with these results. 

This Week's Priorities

I thought the priorities last week worked. I'll tweak them a bit, print out the new ones and post them. And add the dates. I think it'll be interesting to see how it changes from week to week.

  • Priority 1. Hit my word count goals for Synthetic Pain, writing 1,500+ words per day.
  • Priority 2. Complete writing my first short story of 2020.
  • Priority 3. Submit any stories in the outbox to magazines and publish a new story to Patreon.
  • Priority 4. Complete edits on Past Dark and post final e-book files for store pre-orders.

Reworded, but still focusing on the same four areas. I tried to get more specific this week. I'll put those on my priority template and print it out.

Week 2: Picking up the Pace

Introduction, what was the big win last week?

Writing Successes

First full week of 2020. Here's what I managed to pull off:

  • Sunday. As a single-car household, my days off from the library often end up being days for errands and appointments. That was true today. I published the previous post in the morning and didn't get back to writing until the evening after watching Dean Wesley Smith's lecture about attitude at the 20Books conference this year. I ended up adding 1,724 words to Synthetic Pain. My total word count for the day was 2,496 words, including the post and working on short fiction.
  • Monday. Another great day! I took advantage of appointments today to get writing done while I waited and passed yesterday's word count with 1,737words added to Synthetic Pain. Later I worked on studying short fiction, adding another 863 words. Total words for the day, including a little on the blog was 2,652 words.
  • Tuesday. Back to work today. I wrote 1,013 words on Synthetic Pain.
  • Wednesday. Vacation day with family was great. We had a lot of fun. I sat down shortly before collapsing in bed to add 396 words to Synthetic Pain.
  • Thursday. Another work day only I seem to have caught a bug. I wrote 275 words on Synthetic Pain.
  • Friday. Stayed home sick from work. Mostly spent on the couch watching TV and playing Minecraft.
  • Saturday. What happened?

Final thoughts on progress.

OKR Confidence Ratings

Thoughts

Write fantastic novels

Key Results

  • Write 1,500 words (minimum) per day.
  • 40,000 words (minimum) each month on the current novel.
  • Complete 6 novels in 2020.

Even though I haven't hit my minimum word counts each day, I'm still fairly confident that I can reach it. As my streak increases and I am more consistent, my confidence in the second two results will increase.

Write Amazing Short STories

Key Results

  • Write 500 words (minimum) per day.
  • Complete a finished short story bi-weekly (26 stories).
  • Submit or publish each finished story within one week.

I'm putting this at a 50/50 confidence right now. I tweaked the key results for a new story every other week because I want to study published stories in the alternating weeks.

Achieve success with my novels

Key Results

  • 12 novels released on my store and retail stores.
  • Average 10 sales per day, per title.
  • Match my income from my full-time librarian job.

Releasing the novels is one thing—they're written. It's mostly taking the time to get them out, but given my track record I think 50/50 is fair at the start. I have less confidence in the other two results without a lot changing. That's fine! I'm going for it.

Build a Community of Engaged Readers

Key Results

  • Readinary newsletter subscribers increase by 25%.
  • Broadcast open rate averages 60%.
  • Click rate averages 10%.
  • Reach 250 Patreon subscribers.

I'm more confident about getting newsletter subscribers than patrons right now. My open and click rates have been near those levels, which makes me fairly confident I can average that with work.

This Week's Priorities

Plans for the week.

  • Priority 1
  • Priority 2
  • Priority 3

Final words

Week 1 Update: Write Like It is 2020

Introduction, quick summary of the week. Big win: continued writing streak.

Writing Successes

Last week spanned the last few days of 2019 and first days of 2020. Here's what I managed to pull off:

  • Sunday. I added 481 words to Synthetic Pain. 
  • Monday. I wrote 279 words for Synthetic Pain right before going to bed in order to keep the streak going. Watched several episodes (up through #7) of The Mandalorian. Love the show.
  • Tuesday. Last day of 2019. I wasn't sure I'd keep the streak going. I left home at 7 AM and got home 11 hours later after driving 263 miles and visiting three libraries. I didn't have a chance for a break, much less time to write. We finished watching The Mandalorian, then I went to sleep until 9 PM or so, and wrote 343 words on Synthetic Pain. The streak lives! Finished the year with 201,459 words (total, not just fiction).
  • Wednesday. New Year's Day2020, the libraries are closed and I got to sleep in. I rested much of the day, playing Minecraft, and watching The Martian: Extended Edition. It was the afternoon before I sat down to meditate and then write. I spent time writing in my journal and reviewing timelines for Patreon updates. Later I added 653 words to Synthetic Pain.
  • Thursday. I started my day at 4:30 a.m., getting up and ready to write by 4:45 a.m. in my hammock chair with my Freewrite. I added 375 words to Synthetic Pain before I stopped to write in my journal and have breakfast. I added more words during breaks at work to reach a total of 916 words on Synthetic Pain.
  • Friday. My day didn't start early today. I didn't get up until 7 a.m. and didn't write until my lunch break. After dinner I felt sick and distracted myself with another writing session that managed to get my word count on Synthetic Pain up to 468 words for the day.
  • Saturday. I visited one of our libraries today. It's nice to get out into the libraries, talk with staff and people coming into the library. I didn't get a chance to write until the evening and only added 251 words to Synthetic Pain. It's another page, that's something. I could have gotten more done but chose instead to watch Long Shot with my wife. Although then I did stay up a bit longer and added another 1,286 words, bringing the total to 1,537 words, and hitting my target daily word count for the first time this year.

Final summary of successes.

OKR Confidence Ratings

Summary of feelings

Write fantastic novels

Key Results

  • Write 1,500 words (minimum) per day.
  • 40,000 words (minimum) each month on the current novel.
  • Complete 6 novels in 2020.

Even though I haven't hit my minimum word counts each day, I'm still fairly confident that I can reach it. As my streak increases and I am more consistent, my confidence in the second two results will increase.

Write Amazing Short STories

Key Results

  • Write 500 words (minimum) per day.
  • Complete a finished short story bi-weekly (26 stories).
  • Submit or publish each finished story within one week.

I'm putting this at a 50/50 confidence right now. I tweaked the key results for a new story every other week because I want to study published stories in the alternating weeks.

Achieve success with my novels

Key Results

  • 12 novels released on my store and retail stores.
  • Average 10 sales per day, per title.
  • Match my income from my full-time librarian job.

Releasing the novels is one thing—they're written. It's mostly taking the time to get them out, but given my track record I think 50/50 is fair at the start. I have less confidence in the other two results without a lot changing. That's fine! I'm going for it.

Build a Community of Engaged Readers

Key Results

  • Readinary newsletter subscribers increase by 25%.
  • Broadcast open rate averages 60%.
  • Click rate averages 10%.
  • Reach 250 Patreon subscribers.

I'm more confident about getting newsletter subscribers than patrons right now. My open and click rates have been near those levels, which makes me fairly confident I can average that with work.

This Week's Priorities

Summary of this week

  • Priority 1
  • Priority 2
  • Priority 3

Final comments

Week 0 Update: Welcome to the New Year

Introduction

Headline

Share things to celebrate each day. Ideas: Monday, wrote 1,000 words, kept streak going. Saw Rise of Skywalker (embed trailer). Tuesday, wrote 311 words, mostly family focus. Released The Murders in the Reed Moore Library on [thrive_global_fields id='15' inline='1′]—support for as little as $1 to get new stories each month. (create reusable sidebar about Patreon). Wednesday, wrote 352 words, just enough to cover at least a page per day, family holiday celebrations took up most of the day. Thursday, last day off, wrote 465 words, errands, time spent with family. Friday, wrote ?? words, back to work. Saturday, wrote ?? words, back to work.

OKR Confidence Ratings

Initial comments

Write fantastic novels

Key Results

  • Write 1,500 words (minimum) per day.
  • 40,000 words (minimum) each month on the current novel.
  • Complete 6 novels in 2020.

Even though I haven't hit my minimum word counts each day, I'm still fairly confident that I can reach it. As my streak increases and I am more consistent, my confidence in the second two results will increase.

Write Amazing Short STories

Key Results

  • Write 500 words (minimum) per day.
  • Complete a finished short story bi-weekly (26 stories).
  • Submit or publish each finished story within one week.

I'm putting this at a 50/50 confidence right now. I tweaked the key results for a new story every other week because I want to study published stories in the alternating weeks.

Achieve success with my novels

Key Results

  • 12 novels released on my store and retail stores.
  • Average 10 sales per day, per title.
  • Match my income from my full-time librarian job.

Releasing the novels is one thing—they're written. It's mostly taking the time to get them out, but given my track record I think 50/50 is fair at the start. I have less confidence in the other two results without a lot changing. That's fine! I'm going for it.

Build a Community of Engaged Readers

Key Results

  • Readinary newsletter subscribers increase by 25%.
  • Broadcast open rate averages 60%.
  • Click rate averages 10%.
  • Reach 250 Patreon subscribers.

I'm more confident about getting newsletter subscribers than patrons right now. My open and click rates have been near those levels, which makes me fairly confident I can average that with work.

This Week's Priorities

Talk about this week's priorities, key elements

Word count dashboard

2020 Foresight, New Year Plans

I started out 2019 with a planPriorities. Ambitious plans to write, publish, learn, and market more stories and novels. The key principle of the plan? Consistency. Turns out that I struggled with being consistent.

I didn't have any problem with consistent performance while pursuing my degrees. I showed up each day and did the work. I don't have problems at work as a librarian. My word count dashboard shows that I failed to consistently produce new words. Though I don't have a dashboard to track it (at least not yet), I didn't follow a consistent publishing schedule. My marketing efforts languished. I studied erratically. This rotted the foundation of my strategy for the year. Without consistent performance my strategy for the year failed.

The Heinlein Solutions

The problems I faced with my writing are all examples of not following Heinlein's Rules. Many different writers have written about Heinlein's Rules. I'd picked up the basic idea early on when I started writing, but it was Dean Wesley Smith that first lectured about the importance of Heinlein's Rules in a writer's career. I've since heard him talk about these rules many different times, in person and online. I've read his book and blog posts about the rules.

I know the rules.

Yes, and I still missed on all of them. 

Not all of the time. And not always in the same way. As we go into 2020 I want to look ahead with 20/20 foresight, identifying the ways that I failed this year—and recognize my successes. 

I want to take that and identify possible solutions to avoid the failures of this year.

Rule 1: You Must Write

Sounds simple. It is. Pick your tool of choice and make marks. Marks that convey thoughts into a reader's head. Code your story.

Maybe the code works and runs flawlessly in the reader's gray matter so that they experience the story you wanted to tell.

Maybe your code contains bugs that causes the story to crash and the reader puts it away, forgets about it.

No matter the outcome—you must write. I did write this year. If we take a look at my dashboard, I'm nearly at 200,000 words  for the year. Not all of that is fiction. The largest body of work was my journal, then short stories, and finally my novel Synthetic Pain. Plus some words on blog posts, studying, and emails to my list.

The Problem? I didn't consistently write new fiction. If I'd consistently written 250 words per day on my novel it'd be done at about 91,250 words. It's the simple math. It typically takes me less than 15 minutes to write 250 words. Yet I've only written about half that on the novel this year. 

The nice thing about that math is that it's also easy to figure out how much time I'd spend writing the book. At 250 words per 15 minutes, that's 1,000 words/hour, so a 91,000-word novel will take ~91 hours. A year at 15 minutes a day, but only 3 months at 1 hour per day.

The Solution: Consistency

I need to write every day. I work best when I'm consistent. Taking days off throws off my routine. I'm a librarian, managing staff, and working on complex data analytics. It takes a lot of time. I enjoy spending time with my family and doing things at home. I read. I watch TV, movies, and play games. If I don't write each day it becomes that much easier to shrug it off and not get my writing done.

The Master of Consistency: Jonathan Mann

If you're not familiar with Jonathan Mann, watch this video.

Mann has been writing a song a day for 4000 days. That's the level of consistency I'm talking about. Writing only 250 words per day for 4,000 days is 1,000,000 words. That's a book each year, two if they're short, or a book and some short stories. In Mann's case—a whole lot of songs!

He's done more than write the songs. He records them. He creates videos. He's starting a new podcast about his process. It's inspiring. 

How can I maintain that level of consistency?

  • Track my work. I've created the dashboard on Tableau Public. I made a form that feeds a Google Sheets spreadsheet which supplies the data for the dashboard. Each day I record my word counts for each writing session on that form. It's a visual record of my work (or lack of work).
  • No excuses. Mann talks about writing his song each day no matter what. Food poisoning? He does the song. Travel? He writes. Speaking? He writes. It's taking Rule 1 to heart. You must write. Unless I'm literally unconscious or dead there's no reason I can't find 15 minutes to write 250 words each day.
  • Fiction first. Mann doesn't count the day if he hasn't produced his song. That's what counts. I've been tracking all of my word counts. That's fine, but other words can't take the place of new fiction. I should update my tracking so it can show fiction (default) or everything if I want. The day counts when I write at least 250 words of fiction. Every day, not average. Even if I write 4,000 words in a single day, the next day I still need to write at least 250 words. I hope to average more than 250 words per day, but that's the minimum. It's about a page. So instead of a song a day, it's a page of fiction a day.
  • Inspirational Goals. Even if my minimum word count is 250 words of new fiction, I want my average word count to be much higher—2,750 words per day. I may not be able to write that much every day. That means writing much more than I've done, to the point I'd be pushing Pulp Speed One. One million words of new fiction. My minimum would get me a novel in one year. Hitting my higher target would mean several novels each year along with short stories. Impossible? No, not really. Writers do it all the time. Some writers have put out that many words in a single month. 
  • Share my progress. The dashboard is public. Anyone curious enough to see what I'm doing can follow along there. I'm always tempted to blog more often but that's something else that takes more time. I'm thinking about doing a weekly blog post, though, to look back at the previous week. It's a way to share more details of what's going on. Since I keep a journal I can probably extract elements from that to make it easier too.

Rule 2: You Must Finish What You Write

Here's another rule that Mann absolutely hits. He finishes the song each day. It's done. It takes a bit more than 250 words to write most stories. 

I missed on this rule too. I haven't finished Synthetic Pain. I did manage to finish some short stories, but there are some that I didn't complete. A great way to miss on this rule? Don't follow Rule 1.

That's not the only way. I wrote quite a number of chapters of Synthetic Pain and decided (for no particularly good reason) to toss those chapters and start over. That's a great way to not finish something. 

The Solution: Fearless Inertia

Don't stop. Don't look back. It's the marathon. Keep hitting Rule 1 each day until you reach the end of the story. In my case, I might cycle through words I wrote the day before, creatively, to get into the flow and then go forward with new words.

How can I maintain my inertia?

  • Tracking. The tracking helps. The more days that pass, the longer the writing streak, the more power it has to compel me to move forward.
  • Title Tracking. Tracking daily word counts is a start, but I also want to track finished titles. What good is it to write a bunch of words if nothing is finished? I want to update my dashboard / form to include information about each title including the completion date. I can use that to display when I complete titles as well as information about the title.
  • Fear is the mind killer. It's the little death. It's listening to my critical voice. That's what happened with Synthetic Pain. My critical voice (which is fear) convinced me that what I'd written wasn't any good. Ignore it.

Rule 3: You Must Refrain from Rewriting Unless to Editorial Order

Fear haunts all of the rules. Rule 3 is where many people get the gom jabbar. I'm no exception to this one. I start thinking that I need to spend a bit more time going over my story. Usually by that point I'm not doing it for any good reason. It's the fear, the doubt that I can get it right. 

Dean points out the errors in logic around this one. “I'm not sure where the thinking comes from that if they couldn't get it correct the first time, why looking at it and stirring the words around will make it better, but that is the myth.”

I'm better about this one than some of the other rules, but it sneaks in sometimes. The issue with Synthetic Pain was an example.

The Solution: Get It Right the First Time

Dean digs into the details of Rule 3, the ways people fail, and what Heinlein meant when he wrote the rules (hint: exactly what it says). 

How can I get it right the first time?

  • Cycling. Not on the bike. It means cycling back over what I'm writing, still in creative voice, fixing errors, typos, and wrong details. Don't write sloppy drafts. Get it right.
  • Done is done. Once it's finished, that's it. That manuscript moves on to the next rule. If it's a novel, it'll get added to my publication schedule. I'll send short stories out to the major magazines, add them into my publication schedule, or publish on Patreon. (Your support helps me move toward a full-time writing career, and you get regular stories, and other rewards based on tier level).

Rule 4: You Must Put It on the Market

The critical voice loves to stop this one. It's what Steven Pressfield calls Resistance. I've run into this, struggled with it, and continue to do so. On the one hand, I'm not afraid of what people will think about my stories. Except when I get a rejection or a bad review that sends me into a depression spiral and I realize that I do care. I care because I hope readers will enjoy the stories. Because I want to succeed. 

This rule gets tricky because it's easy to ‘forget' to send something out. Or to take the time to publish it. Or fall into a Rule 3 temptation to ‘revise' the story. 

The Solution: Get Over It

You don't own someone's reaction to your work. Mann shares this quote from Martha Graham in his video.

There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is on a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.

I love this so much. It's one of the best things that I've read. It's worth taking time to unpack it. Watch Mann's video. He goes through it. Graham says, “if you block it, it will never exist…” And, “It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression.

Right. Send it out.

How can I get over it?

  • Acceptance. Remember the quote from Martha Graham. I don't have to believe in myself, in my work. I don't have to be pleased. I only need to keep the channel open. Good or bad, it isn't up to me. 

Rule 5: You Must Keep It on the Market Until Sold

Boy did I screw up on this one! I've unpublished books instead of leaving them up. I've failed to send stories back out to markets, allowing them to languish in a virtual drawer. On top of Rule 4 failures, Rule 5 is a common problem area for me. 

Dean says, “So, these writers pull down an indie-published story, give up on a story, usually out of fear, and put the story in a drawer. No reader will ever buy it.

“Headshaking in this modern world of unlimited shelf space.”

Yep. And I've been one of those writers.

The Solution: Keep It Out

It's not complicated. If sending to professional markets, keep sending it out. Even after it has been published, it might be possible to publish it in a market that accepts reprints. Or indie publish it. Look at all of the possible rights you can license and Rule 4 and 5 the heck out of it.

So if it is that simple, what's the problem? Why do I have so much difficulty with this one?

How can I keep titles on the market?

  • Plan Markets. Figure it out in advance. For short stories, determine which markets pay professional rates. Create a ranked list of markets. If the first doesn't take it, send it on to the next.
  • Mailing Mondays. Okay, so generally stories aren't mailed any longer. Still, it can be helpful to pick a day to send any stories that came back on to the next market. I use Trello for tracking submissions and my plans.
  • Publish Books Monthly. I want to hit a regular publication schedule for my novels. That's been the plan, but as with my other issues around consistency, it hasn't always gone as planned. No excuses. I have planned out releases on the 1st of each month. The next release is scheduled for Jan. 1st – Past Dark, available for pre-order now. I also have Time Retrievers set for a release date of Feb. 1st, also available to pre-order. 

2020 Plans

It's nearly the New Year. I'm excited about the opportunities in 2020. The key, as it was last year, is consistency. Like Mann, I need to write each day. I've gone over some of the issues that I faced, the tactics that can help me make sure that I stick to Heinlein's Rules, and some targets that I want to reach. I want to put that into a format that can help me with being consistent.

Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)

Adopted by Google and other organizations, popularized by John Doerr in Measure What Matters, OKRs offer a structure I like. It's one that we're using at the library too. It makes sense to me to create some personal OKRs for my writing. The tactics I listed above are the actions that I'll take to meet my objectives. 

Doerr lists the first superpower of OKRs: Focus and Commit to Priorities.

That's key for me.

What is most important for the next three (or six, or twelve) months?…With a select set of OKRs, we can highlight a few things–the vital things–that must get done, as planned and on time.

See, it's not only words that I'm going for. I'm striving to write fun stories. Stories I want to read. I want to have fun when I'm writing! I also have fun with the other steps along the way.

Annual OKRs

I haven't explained OKRs in great detail. It comes down to a few things, as Christina Wodtke says in Radical Focus. “One: set inspiring and measurable goals. Two: make sure you…are always making progress toward that desired end state. No matter how many other things are on your plate.”

It's what you want to do and how you'll know if you've achieved it.

I know I've got a good Objective when you leap out of bed in the morning eager to make it happen. I know I've got the right Key Results when you are also a little scared you can't make them.

I'm setting annual OKRs. Each week I'll set priorities. Maybe I'll post about that, another way to remain accountable, either here or on Patreon. It's also a way to celebrate what has been accomplished.

Write fantastic novels

Key Results

  • Write 1,500 words (minimum) per day.
  • 40,000 words (minimum) each month on the current novel.
  • Complete a finished novel by the end of each even month (6 novels).

Write amazing short stories

Key Results

  • Write 500 words (minimum) per day.
  • Complete a finished short story bi-weekly (26 stories).
  • Submit or publish each story within one week.

Achieve Success with my novels

Key Results

  • 12 novels released, one each month, on my store and retail stores.
  • Novels are available in e-book, hardcover, paperback, and large print formats.
  • Average 10 sales per day, per title.
  • Match my income from my full-time librarian job.

BUild an engaged community of readers

Key Results

  • Readinary newsletter subscribers increase by 25%.
  • Broadcast open rate averages 60%.
  • Click rate averages 10%.
  • Reach 250 Patreon subscribers.

I'll start from that set of OKRs for 2020. I think it's a good set of objectives that covers my writing, publishing, and marketing bases. A weekly check in, commitment to goals for the week, and celebration of the previous week's accomplishments will help. I tried to incorporate the points I made about each of Heinlein's Rules.

I have other things I'd like to do in the new year, including additional work on illustration. I'm not setting OKRs for those because I want to keep my focus on what's important. Now I'll look at turning those OKRs into a dashboard.

I'd love to hear what you think in the comments. Sign up for Readinary below, or support me on Patreon