My 2023 Goals

It’s New Years Eve and a fresh new year is almost upon us so that means its time for me to set my goals for the year ahead. I’ve been doing this for a while now – setting my goals and then checking them against the reality at the end of the year. In 2022 I did really well, surprising myself by achieving 9 and of 10 goals and writing way more than I had planned to. 2022 seemed to be the year I let myself write multiple first draft manuscripts so that must mean 2023 will be the year I polish them all up one by one. That is exciting but won’t leave much time for fresh new writing! Anyway, here they are. Everything I hope to achieve in 2023.

  1. Start releasing The Day The Earth Turned series – As I plan to release each book with the season it occurs in, the first book Summer will be released in May or June 2023. Apart from one final read through, all four books are totally ready to go and have been edited and proofread and sent out to beta readers. I am currently waiting for covers from my designer and one of the first things I need to do in the New Year is plan my launch for this series. I really want to put the effort in and I plan to spend some money on advertising, set up ARC’s and put together a blog tour for book one. Let’s see what happens!
  2. Finish At Night They Played In The Road (working title, I still can’t quite decide) and send to editor – I think this is achievable. This is the book I am currently working on as it occurs next in The Boy With The Thorn In His Side universe. In 2022 I wrote the rough first draft of this spin-off book, where two characters I introduced in book 5 of The Boy series, got their own book. Writing this was a long slog as it currently stands at over 170,000 words but I enjoyed it immensely. So much, that by the time I got to the end I had another idea for another book set in this universe. Instead of starting the second draft of the spin-off, I couldn’t resist jumping straight into the new book idea, which was essentially a crossover book, using characters from several of my novels. It only took six weeks to write and was totally addictive! That then set me off on another tangent as Leon from The Mess Of Me appears in this crossover book, so I needed to finally finish The Mess Of Us in order to set up his part in the crossover book. Sorry if this is confusing! Anyway, as I have already said, 2022 was the year I wrote four books in first draft so 2023 is the year I have to get them all scrubbed up to release! I am nearly at the end of the second draft already, which has really been more of a read through to remind myself of what I’ve done. Draft three will commence immediately after and will involve more serious editing, revising and cutting the word count down! I am not sure this book will get released in 2023 but I at least plan to get it finished and sent to my editor!
  3. Publish Days End, the third book in the Fortune’s Well trilogy – Sim Sansford and I have already released the first two books in this mysterious YA trilogy (Hangman’s Revenge and Project Pandora) Book three has a cover and is pretty much ready to go. It is with our editor at the moment so at some point soon we will have her edits and feedback to work through and then we can plan a release!
  4. Keep adding to my new short story and poetry collection – It doesn’t have a name yet, but after publishing The Old Friend in 2022, I carried on writing poems and little bits of flash fiction and short stories, mainly in response to my monthly request for writing prompts on my Facebook page! I don’t think this will be ready for release for another year or so but I will just keep adding little bits to it when they come to me. I think this will be really good for me in 2023 as I won’t get much chance to write anything new with all the second drafts I have to dive into!
  5. Launch Chasing Driftwood Books – in 2021 the community interest company (Chasing Driftwood Writing Group) I run with Sim released an anthology called Stay Home – A Year of Writing Through Lockdown. A multitude of talented writers and bloggers, including people who attend our writing clubs and workshops contributed to the collection. We published the book under Chasing Driftwood Books and we also published the first two books in our co-written trilogy under the same name. Towards the end of 2022 we had a meeting where we laid out our plans for this company. Essentially, we plan to create an indie collective of like-minded authors of various genres. There are four of us so far but in 2023 we hope to launch it fully and encourage more to join. As indies, we have struggled to get sales and reviews and we know from talking to others that we are not alone. If we join up and help each other, we can achieve more. Our aim is to set up an indie publishing collective with a website, newsletter and social media pages, all aimed at lifting ourselves and our fellow authors up. I’ll obviously explain this in better detail when we are ready to go!
  6. Keep improving my vegetable plot and self-sufficiency in general – Always on the list because a garden is a project that will never be done! At the moment, my vegetable plot is a in a right state, covered in weeds and leaves and saturated with rainwater, but there is still plenty growing there! I can’t wait for warmer days to get out there and clean it up and get planting again. I need a new greenhouse or two and for Christmas I got plenty more seeds to plant. It keeps me going. I can’t express enough how soothing and therapeutic gardening in. It makes me so happy.
  7. Keep Up with dog training – I’ve never put this on my list before because training my dogs can be a bit sporadic over the year. Obviously I do a lot of training when they are puppies and teenagers and then when they’re a pretty good dog I tend to let it slip. At the moment, Ada is coming up 5 months and has completed a Life Skills course. She is so smart and picks things up so quickly, that I’ve built training into our daily routine on walks and at home. It’s so much fun and really improves the bond between us. Jesse enjoys scentwork and tracking and hoopers but I haven’t booked him into anything for a while, though we do bits and bobs at home to get him thinking. Tinks is a bit old and tired for it all but sometimes she joins in so I let her! I love my dogs so much. They make me so happy and the happier they are the happier I am.
  8. Get fitter and stronger – Last year I started getting into Pilates again after a very long break. I just follow some videos on YouTube and try to fit it in three times a week. This doesn’t always happen and life being what it is, I sometimes fall out of the habit and let a few weeks pass by before getting back into it again. So, this year I hope to keep trying to get fitter and stronger. I want my body to be strong as possible I head into middle-age.

Well that’s it because I can’t think of any more, which is probably a good thing! I’ll check back on these a year from now and see how I did! Are you setting any goals for 2023? Or just taking it as it comes? Please feel free to comment! And have a happy new year!!

December Writing Challenge: Year in Review

At the start of every month I ask my Facebook followers to suggest some writing prompts and challenges and then I post the one I chose at the end of the month. This time I picked ‘Best of the Year – the year in highlights’ from Beaton Mabaso. I also picked a prompt from author Paula Harmon which was about a diary – I started this as it inspired a short story but the story kept getting longer and I haven’t quite finished it yet! So I am going with this one, thank you Beaton!

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Like every year before it, 2022 has flown by. There is always that uncomfortable and resentful stumbling into January – the least favourite and most dreaded month. It feels like everything is grim and cold and miserable and it feels impossible that spring and summer will ever return to cheer us. Yet they always do. January gives way to February, and as we fall into March, we start looking ahead again. We look for the first signs of spring – bluebells and daffodils and birdsong. We start to smile again, we start to feel warmed and excited. And then summer comes and it feels like forever but it never lasts as long as we want it to. Autumn creeps in stealthily, the air in the mornings has a crispness to it, the leaves start to tumble. Before we know it we are back where we began – at the end of a year, looking a new one in the eye. Another year of life, another year closer to death.

To be honest, the year has gone so fast for me, I’m struggling to look back on it at all. It was a blur! It barely happened. I was spun around and I’m back here again. But then I remember little bits and pieces, small wins and victories, events and memories, and it all starts to seep back.

In the news of course, 2022 has little to smile about. Lockdowns are a thing of the past, yet covid continues to ravage us. As a family we have definitely had our least healthy year in a while, with my youngest son’s school being pummelled by viruses and illnesses. Currently, there is a lot of fear around the rise of scarlet fever and invasive strep A. Every time a child gets a sore throat, we panic. But, touch wood, we have so far avoided both. My son has had a lot of sick days in 2022 though, more than I am comfortable with and I hope that 2023 sees a healthier year for everyone.

The war in Ukraine is a continuing tragedy. Like any war, it all just seems so pointless. Time and time again, the men in suits send ordinary people out to fight and die, while they argue and see very little of the killing and dying themselves. The war had an impact on fuel prices and inflation has spiralled out of control. The cost of living crisis is the current crisis. Yes, it feels like every year gets its own crisis, its own heartbreaking and frustratingly avoidable emergency.

In the spring petrol stations in the UK ran dry as people panic bought fuel. I joined many a long and winding queue in the hope to fill up the car so I could get to work or get my son to school. We stopped using it as much as a result and my husband started cycling to work and back. The prices and supplies stabilised but it made me think hard about our dependence on fossil fuels and cars. It made me think hard about everything.

In the summer my second daughter sat her A-Levels and I could not be prouder of what she has achieved. She was deeply affected by the lockdowns and her mental health took a real battering. She battled through and in September we drove her to Devon to start her new life at University, studying marine biology and oceanography. She could not be happier. She is loving every second of it. Our first daughter started her second year of creative writing and film studies in Wales and we managed to catch up with her when we had a caravan holiday nearby at the end of August. That little simple holiday was a key happy memory for me. The weather was perfect, New Quay in Wales was just stunning and my husband, myself and our two boys whiled away laidback hours on the beach, building stone cairns with the smooth rocks, collecting smooth pieces of driftwood, having picnics, playing arcade games and eating out. Our caravan was really nice and it was a perfect little break away together.

As for the rest of summer, it was record breaking for all the wrong reasons. The UK saw temperatures soaring above 40 degrees for the first time and we sweltered in heat we are just not built for or used to. The other issue was lack of rain, with many counties declaring hosepipe bans as drought lingered. Again, I thought about what we are doing to our world and what it means for the future. It was tragic to watch the wildlife suffering. The trees started losing their leaves early and you couldn’t find greenery anywhere.

We all breathed a sigh of relief when cooler weather sailed in and for the most part, autumn was kind to us. It could have been equally brutal, sending endless rain and floods our way, but it wasn’t and it stayed mild well into November. During autumn, people were getting increasingly nervous and upset about the huge increases to their heating bills. There has been government support for those struggling the most but no long-term solution has been offered. I’d like to see massive investment in renewables to end our dependence on fossil fuels for good but I can’t see this current lot doing anything radical. Instead we have sticking plasters offered and millions of people afraid to switch their heating on.

And as if it somehow knew, the weather turned bitterly cold and winter arrived with a vengeance. With prices sky high and temperatures lower than they’ve been since 2012, people are stuck with impossible choices, often choosing between heating and eating, and again, I am reminded of our ridiculous dependence on the fossil fuels that are killing our planet.

But for me personally, 2023 has been kind. I’m now running seven children’s writing clubs and throughout this year nearly every one has been full with a waiting list. As a self-employed person, I am constantly nervous about whether people will sign up again, especially now times are getting so tough for so many. To get ahead of the game, I am planning on offering two new clubs in 2023 and I will also start offering workshops via Outschool. Financially, this has been a good year for us, which is weird, but we are both earning more and have two less children at home.

My writing went into some kind of crazed overdrive in 2023!! Sim and I finished and released the first two books in our Fortune’s Well trilogy and the third is due for release early 2023. I published The Old Friend – A Collection of Tales and Poems in April and I fnished the final drafts of all four books in The Day The Earth Turned series. 2023 will be all about me planning the best launch yet, getting amazing covers and releasing them one by one.

As well as working on those two series, I also wrote the first draft of At Night We Played In The Road – which is a spin-off book from The Boy With The Thorn In His Side. That led to me getting ideas about a crossover book, using characters from The Boy series, the Holds End series, The Mess of Me and Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature… Phew! Currently titled The Dark Finds You, once I had the plot outlined, I could not resist diving in and in about six weeks I had written this book too. It wrote itself, to be honest. The story connects Danny from The Boy series, Bill Robinson from Holds End trilogy, Leon from The Mess Of Me and Elliot from Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature in a plot about a missing boy. These books were already connected in small ways so it was very easy to pull the characters all together for this one plot. I loved it and cannot wait to work on the second draft. It will finish off and tie up that whole universe. Once I had written it, I then decided to go and finish the first draft of The Mess of Us, which is obviously the sequel to The Mess Of Me, as I had started it a few years back. That was a harder one to write but I got there! So, now I have the three final books in that universe written in first draft. I will be starting At Night We Played In The Road next, as in terms of the timeline, it’s the next one to finish and release. Then it will be The Mess Of Us and then The Dark Finds You. Plenty to keep me busy then!

But that wasn’t all. In February we had a ten day power cut thanks to storm Eunice and a three week WiFi cut! I couldn’t use my laptop so ended up writing something new in a notebook to keep me busy. Black Hare Valley was an idea already plotted out to some extent, complete with character bios and a detailed map, and this break from technology seemed like a good reason to play with it. I got totally addicted, filled five notebooks and during a three month period, wrote the whole thing. So, that will get worked on at some point too!

As you can see, a crazy year for output and productivity! Oh, I also started putting together a new short story/flash fiction/poetry collection because I’m always accumulating little bits and bobs.

I’m looking forward to 2023 on a personal level. I can’t wait to release more books, dive into second drafts, and maybe even start new books. It is what I love more than anything. I am looking forward to warmer weather, time outside and work on the vegetable plot. I am looking forward to another little family holiday and perhaps a festival or two. I am looking forward to running more writing clubs and seeing where it all goes.

But first, we have Christmas to enjoy! Our food is all bought, our decorations are up, presents are all wrapped, now we just need our eldest back from uni and we are all here and ready to have fun!

What was 2022 like for you? What were your highlights?

My 2022 Goals Vs The Reality

It’s that time of year again!! It’s time to look back on the goals I set for myself in 2022 and see how well I did. Every year in January I write down a list of goals for the year ahead and every year in December I reflect back and see how many I achieved. So, here goes!

Goal 1: Publish my new short story and poetry collection: The Old Friend.

Achieved: This was an easy one to achieve, to be fair, as the book was all ready to go. After a final edit/proofread, it was released in April!

Goal 2: Do a rewrite of The Day The Earth Turned Series. All four books are finished and at the same fourth draft stage. I am now going back to the start to rewrite them all, one by one.

Achieved: I had to go back over each one, adding new bits, developing characters a bit more and so on. I made this my priority in 2022 and since then they have all been edited and proofread. At the moment, they are awaiting book covers and I need to plan the launch of book one.

Goal 3: Finalise book one of the Fortune’s Well series I’ve co-written with Sim Sansford. By finalise I mean finish our final edits, send to the proofreader, contact designer for a front cover, make the final, final edits and plan a launch.

Achieved: Not only did we finish and release book one, Hangman’s Revenge, but we finished and released book two, Project Pandora as well! We plan to release book three in the New Year!

Goal 4: Continue to write chapters for the spin-off book to The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series. The spin-off idea arrived a few years back and a year ago I couldn’t resist making notes for it, which soon evolved into chapters. I wrote these up a few months ago and continued writing up to chapter 22. I have to prioritise The Day The earth Turned and the Fortune’s Well series this year as they are both finished and ready to polish up and publish, but I always need to be writing something fresh and new too so this is the one I will work on when I can. It has a working title of At Night They Played In The Road.

Achieved: I finished the first draft of this book in 2022! So, I actually did more than I thought I would. I will be starting the second draft very soon, once I have finished the universe timeline for all my connected books.

Goal 5: Continue to add to all my other book ideas. I need to add my zombie apocalypse idea to my upcoming books page. I have almost filled a notepad with longhand entries to this diary style book but I haven’t written any in a few weeks now. I will continue to carry it around and add to it when I feel the urge. There are two other writing projects I need to add to the upcoming books page. One is another YA series, this time with a supernatural theme and one is an adult family mystery. It will be many years before I get to either but I must continue to make notes when I get ideas!

Achieved: Wow, again, I did more than I set myself. I have written a bit more of the zombie book but it’s resting at the moment. The family mystery has really grown and now has its own ideas book full of character bios and plot ideas. I won’t start writing it for some time but I add to the book whenever anything pops into my head. And as for the YA supernatural series, I wrote it! This was all thanks to a long power cut and WiFi disconnection that meant I couldn’t use my laptop, so to keep busy I started writing Black Hare Valley, a book I had lots of notes and plans for. I got so addicted I filled five notepads and finished it in longhand! I won’t write it up into the second draft for a while but I still can’t believe I wrote it and got it out of my head!

Goal 6: Be more active. During the lockdowns I was very active in my garden and just in general but whenever things went back to normal I fell back into the trap of being tired from work and not keeping up outdoor activities. I really want to get stronger and fitter again in 2022 so I aim to be outside as much as I can.

Achieved: I took up pilates in 2022 and though I don’t get as much time as I’d like to do it, I am pleased with what I have managed to fit in. My vegetable patch did really well and kept me busy outdoors too so I do feel stronger and fitter!

Goal 7: Do better in the veg plot. I didn’t do too badly last year but every year I hope to improve so this has to go on the list again. I got a voucher for Xmas from my sister for plant plugs and have ordered a lovely selection to start me off on the right track. My mother-in-law also bought me a huge bag of vegetable and herb seeds, as well as wooden labels, bee bombs and bird food. I am so excited and can’t wait to get stuck into gardening again!

Achieved: Though not without its failures, I am overall very happy with my plot this year. For one thing. I have kept it going through autumn and winter! I’ve still got leeks, kale and brassicas growing out there and I’ve planted my garlic and onions. I even grew a few small cauliflowers for the first time ever!

Goal 8: Launch a second community writing project with Chasing Driftwood Writing Group. In 2021 we finally released our first anthology – Stay Home: A Year of Writing Through Lockdown. The anthology is a mixture of personal essays, short stories and poetry on the lockdown experience. Sales have been good and are helping to fund our next project – The World You Gave Us. We hope to collect essays, short stories and poetry from young writers only this time and eventually publish another anthology.

Achieved: To some extent! The book is on the go but has been neglected lately. We really need to focus on this next year but we did launch it, so goal achieved to a certain extent!

Goal 9: Get better at marketing my books. Haha, this one is always up there! I will endeavour to try harder though! I have been getting better at blogging regularly and posting on social media. It’s my newsletter I need to get more consistent with and getting reviews!

Failed: Yeah, I can’t lie. Not much has changed. The blogs have continued to be pretty regular and I’ve done well with the quotes and graphics and general sharing on social media but I haven’t posted a newsletter in over a year now!! My sales have remained the same and reviews are painstakingly slow to gather. But I do have more solid plans for 2023!

Goal 10: Be happy, don’t worry! I intend to be as happy as I can be. I aim to strive to always see the positive. I will try as hard as I can to leave the world better than I found it, be aware and informed, but not allow myself to become drenched in cynicism or dragged down by useless worrying. I must remind myself daily that I only have one short life and it’s up to me what I do with it. I must remind myself that worrying never achieves anything, that most people are good and the world is worth saving. I will continue to do whatever I can to give back to nature and do whatever I can to keep a smile on my face.

Achieved: I’d say that overall my 2022 has been a happy one. The world has continued to go to shit but in my own little world, all is well. I now have two daughters doing very well at university, a son doing well in his GCSE year and another son just being his own adorable funny self. We’re all healthy. My writing clubs are all full and I am earning more than ever which does fill me with pride.

Wow, I can’t believe I achieved 9 out of 10! I definitely wrote more books than I ever imagined this year. As well as writing the first draft of At Night We Played In The Road, and Black Hare Valley, I also wrote a first draft of The Mess of Us (sequel to The Mess of Me) and a book called The Dark Finds You which is a crossover book. My goals for 2023 are obviously going to be second drafts of all these as well as finally releasing The Day The Earth Turned series. I have even started another poetry and short story collection.

It’s been a good year in reflection and now that I’ve checked my goals versus the reality I feel quite proud of myself.

Look out for my 2023 goals post, coming soon!

Lessons Learnt From Young Writers

I am extremely privileged to work with young writers for my job with Chasing Driftwood Writing Group. I run seven clubs every week, catering to home-educated children and within schools as after-school clubs. Some are on Zoom and some are in-person. I work with children aged between 7 and 16, though sometimes younger and older. I’ve been doing this since 2015 and in that time, though I like to think I have taught them a thing or two about writing, it’s also true that they have taught me. Here are some lessons I have learnt from young writers.

  1. Self-belief is key – One of the things I love about young writers is that so far they are entirely untouched by cynicism. There is a lot of negativity within the writing world and I have blogged about it before. A lot of adult writers, for example, get jaded and worn out, think it’s not worth it, they’ll never make it, never sell any books etc etc… but young writers don’t think like that at all. They’ll quite happily declare that they’ve started writing a book and it’s going to be a series and they’re going to get it published and become an author. They truly believe it and so they should!
  2. The stories in your head are just as important as the ones you write down – One thing I can tell you about young writers is that their heads are just full of the most amazing stories. The tricky bit is getting them to write it all down! Of course – it’s physically and mentally taxing for young children to fill reams and reams of paper with handwriting, and most of them have not yet mastered fast typing on a laptop, so I spend a lot of time listening. Sometimes I help them out by writing it down as they explain it to me. I find it fascinating how much their imaginations conjure up! One young writer recently told me about some missing cats who had their pictures on wanted posters. This started off as a fake article as we have been working on article-writing. It soon morphed into a wonderful story about magical rainbow cats that have been stolen, and since they have vanished, the world has no colour and everything is black and white. Another was reluctant to write his story down but told me it was about a mythical creature that died mysteriously in an alley-way and its death opened up a portal to another world, and since it died there can be no happiness in the normal world. Another told me a story where children wake up to find that everyone but them have been turned into tiny sand-timers counting down to some sort of disaster. The children have to solve the mystery to save the world. Just brilliant! Sometimes my job involves encouraging them to put pen to paper and sometimes my job is simply listening in wonder.
  3. It’s okay to let things go off tangent – This might be one of the biggest things they have taught me. I plan my half-term topics and most of the clubs will tackle the same topic at the same time. I usually plan the sessions in advance – for example, with article writing in schools, we started by talking about what an article is, who had read one, why etc – then moved on to creating our own crazy headlines. This involved lots of very dramatic words laid out on a table for them to move around. We had some brilliant creations such as Cats Are Broken, Donut Monsters Are Taking Over The World and Dragon’s Map of The Road Less Travelled… The idea after that was they would attempt to write a fake article to go with their chosen fake headline. Some of the children did this, writing a lead or intro under their headline, drawing a fake ‘photo’ even conducting fake interviews, whereas some of them vanished on a tangent for a story idea. I didn’t mind this at all. It would have been lovely to get them all to write the story in article style, but when an idea runs and runs, who am I to stop it? The end result was a mixture of article style stories and actual stories.
  4. Everything is open to interpretation – It quite often transpires that my plans go awry with young writers. They inevitably interpret things differently and ask to do something slightly different and within reason, I like to accommodate this. Sometimes I’ll set a task and then when the results come in, it will become obvious how differently they have interpreted it. Again, there is nothing wrong with this and I think it shows the depth of their individual imaginations.
  5. A support network is everything – One thing I have noticed over the years is that the more children talk about writing and share their writing, the more other children will do the same. I try to encourage them to share their work, either by reading it out or by allowing me to. They can be shy about this so I never force anyone. I have noticed, however, that they are naturally very supportive of and impressed by each other. Our Zoom groups for instance are full of supportive and kind comments in the chat and they seem to love listening to each-other’s stories. In the school groups, as they grow in confidence they love reading their work out loud to the whole class and sometimes I end up with a small mob surrounding me begging to read theirs out! I think this shows that writers do need support and the more they can get, the better. When you feel supported and valued, when your efforts are noticed and appreciated, you tend to try even harder.
  6. Above all else, writing should be fun – This is such an important one and I think us older writers tend to forget this. Once we are bogged down in editing, proofreading, submitting, marketing and promoting, we find ourselves surrounded by some of the negative aspects of the writing world. I think there are far too many negative writer stereotypes out there and it’s easy to fall prey to that mindset. Writing is hard, it’s a torture, why do we do it to ourselves? I’m happy to tell you that children don’t see it that way at all. For them, it’s storytelling and telling stories is fun. It definitely helps to remind ourselves of this from time to time!