THREE techniques for hitting word count targets

We all want to be more productive with our finite amount of time on this planet, but how do we do that? At heart, I’m a bit of a numbers gal and for me this is a good way to look at my productivity when it comes to my writing. I use two KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) as measurables. The first is the number of publications I have in the marketplace – currently 5 incase you were wondering. The second is my daily word count which will obviously have a direct impact on my first KPI. Some people prefer to track their progress on a weekly or even a monthly basis, but I get a buzz out of pushing myself to write something everyday. Every morning (or sometimes the night before) I take into account how much time I have that day, and then set myself a word count. Sometimes its 500, sometimes its 5000, but I always try to push myself. Here are three techniques I use to help me hit these daily word counts.

  • Keep a spreadsheet – I know it sounds dull, but it works for me, so it may work for you too. I basically have a column for the date, word count target, words written and then a tick/cross column to signify if I’ve met my target or not. I print this out and then pin my spreadsheet above my desk and fill it in everyday. I know my limitations and I know I wouldn’t bother opening up the file if it just remained on my desktop, so something literally hanging above my head is essential for me. You’d be surprised how motivational even a few consecutive days of hitting your targets gets. The longer my streak gets, the more I don’t want it to end.
  • Get a coach – not like a writing coach but someone who’s interested in your writing. Maybe a cheerleader is more apt. Someone who’s happy to get involved and ask you on a regular basis, “how many words have you written today?” For me, it’s my other half. Practically everyday when he knows I plan on writing he asks me how much I’ve done. Believe me, the feeling of not wanting to tell that someone you didn’t reach your target because you were painting your toenails for 3 hours is a powerful motivator.
  • The Pomodoro Technique – my author bud Susan May, put me onto this. If you want all the info on this time management technique then I suggest you Google it for more in-depthness, or use the link above. It’s basically a total commitment to whatever it is you’re doing (like writing) for a set amount of time. Sometimes I use this, sometimes I don’t, depending on how well I’ve been focusing. If I’ve got a bitty day and only small windows of time in which to write, I’ll often plump for this method. I set a timer on my phone for however long I’ve got to spare, and then blitz my writing until the buzzer goes off with ZERO distractions. It’s difficult but totally worth it if you want to see results quickly. Afterwards I like to reward myself with a coffee or a little piece of chocolate, but this is optional!

So there you have it – a few ideas to try to increase and motivate productivity. Good luck!

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Iceland Writers Retreat Competition Entry

I’ve been meaning to put this up for awhile and have finally gotten round to posting. Earlier this year I entered a competition to win a spot on the Iceland Writers Retreat. Alas, I didn’t win but I thought I’d post up my story anyway as something a little bit different. The brief was to use the below picture, taken from inside the beautiful Harpa Concert Hall for inspiration and write a short story, or essay in no more than five hundred words. Click here for the winners and their work. Hope you enjoy!

reykjavikconcerthall_zps296581c4The Empty Berth

Homecoming is always something of a double-edged sword for a seaman. It is for this seaman, anyway. There is the joy and relief of returning home to loved ones, combined with an unbridled impatience to set sail again in search of fish and fortune. When at sea, I long for land. But once on land, all I can dream of is the sting of brisk North Atlantic air on my face and the rhythmic rocking of the ocean beneath my feet.

Every time I round the breakwaters on my return to port, I expect to see my berth housing a vessel that has no business being there. Maybe some young upstart fisherman, defying tradition and pushing his luck. Or, worse still, what the landmen call tourist boats. But to my surprise, each time I return, my berth is empty; seemingly ready and waiting and almost expecting me as it extends out a warm embrace to my boat.

Evidently, the legend of an old seadog who paid a small fortune to reserve his berth for all eternity lives on. I hear the young’uns on occasion whispering the tales that have been passed down by their fathers and grandfathers. They fear the violent fury of the angry seadog if they take his spot; for he has been known to draw forth huge storms in his rage. So out of terror or plain superstition, they keep my berth empty.

Whenever I hear such things, a wry smile tugs at my cracked and salty lips. For I am long gone, and besides, what real harm could I possibly do them now? A misplaced hat or boot, maybe. But a raging tempest is a stretch too far of the imagination. Funny how these tales manifest through the ages.

All I want is to go about my business in peace, visiting the places of my childhood and reliving old memories of my life. Things have changed though, and sometimes I hardly recognise the island of my birth. When I return to port, all that fills my vision now is what I used to regard as a strange glistening monstrosity, looming large over my berth in the harbour with its irregular silhouette, and even more irregularly-shaped windows. I used to hate it. I even tried to summon one of those raging tempests that I’m famed for to wipe it off the face of my homeland. But alas, it has become immovable. It now represents a familiar beacon to me, reflecting the light in peculiar and eerie ways across the water. And whilst I haven’t always regarded it favourably, when I sail away I look back and marvel at the clouds dancing their strange reflections across the gleaming surfaces, wondering when I shall see this place again. Sometimes I can hear music and laughter. It really is quite magical.

Perhaps that’s what lures me back time and again from my beloved sea; the chance to see some more magic. So, please keep my berth empty for me.

Happy New Year!

Happy (albeit slightly belated) New Year, and I am all too aware that it’s been a long time, no blog. Basically, I’ve had a bit of a break from work and writing over the festive season which turned out to be longer than anticipated. But hey ho, I’m back now and preparing to knuckle down and knock last year’s word count out of the park. That’s the plan, at least.

Last year I wrote just over 300,000 words of published fiction, so this year I’m challenging myself to break the 400,000 word barrier. Seeing as I’ve done about 12,562 to date, I have some way to go! So that’s it really. No long-winded resolutions or anything like that from me. Just the desire to be as productive as humanly possible.

Once again, belated best wishes to you all for 2015, and here’s to being more productive than last year.

Cheers,

Jo

My simplified self-publishing process

I get asked quite regularly about how much self-publishing costs. The short answer is you can spend a lot on self-publishing, or you can spend a bit less. When I published my first novel, Jessie Slaymaker’s Non-Existent Love Life (90,000 words) last December, I went all out. I had a top editor, a cover specially designed, professional formatting done in every conceivable format available and numerous Createspace proofs printed. I thought you had to do all of these things, all at the same time in-order to get a quality book out to market. I would sum up my experience of getting my debut novel published as a learning curve, but I don’t regret doing things the way I did back then.

Fast-forward to May 2014 and I was ready to publish my second novel, Love Redesigned (50,000 words). Having thrown quite a bit of cash at my first project (and not having seen much of a return), I was reluctant to throw quite as much at the second one. Now, me being an impatient person by nature at the best of times, decided to omit a few of the stages that I went through with the first book in a bid to buy myself some time. I just wanted to build on momentum and get another quality book in people’s hands quickly. I continued to use the same editor, as I think this is where its worth spending the money. But I ditched the tailormade cover design in favour of a decent pre-made one from www.goonwrite.com I know all the sage advice out there is that a cover is very important and I agree. However, it takes time to go backwards and forwards with a cover designer trying to express your vision for the book, not to mention the considerable expense. There are good quality pre-made designs out there if you search for them. When it came to the technical putting together of Love Redesigned, the first book hadn’t sold that many hard copies, so I decided to hold fire on using Createspace for my second title and focus on the ebook market instead. This meant I didn’t need all the different formats which equaled less time and less money. In fact, as I felt Amazon was where I was getting the most traction, I opted to only get one format done (mobi file for kindle) from my formatting whizz. Getting hard copies printed, is something that I will probably come back to at a later date and I can always get further formats down the line if and when required.

My third novel, Fixed-Term Love (73,000 words) came out in October 2014 and again I followed the pared down approach I’d taken with Love Redesigned rather than creating something with all the bells and whistles on. The pared down approach is as follows:

  1. Good editor
  2. Premade cover
  3. One format of novel formatted

Having started to hone my little process, I really felt like I knew what I was doing with this book. Also, by making savings where I have, I now have more money in the kitty to throw at marketing-which is a good position to be in. By following my simplified self-publishing process, I have my fourth book, Jessie Slaymaker’s Rules of Engagement (and yes, you are right in thinking that this is the sequel to Jessie Slaymaker’s Non-Existent Love Life!) and a short story out before the end of the year called A Dream Come True.

Five publications in a year isn’t too shabby in my opinion. I’ve tried to focus my efforts and majority of my budget on having a strong foundation in the quality of the writing (I hope), and then supplementing this with more affordable trimmings, rather than going whole hog like I did with my first Jessie book.

If anyone is interested in getting a break down of my costs for each book, I’d be happy to divulge in another blog post, if there is enough interest. Give me a nag, at joauthoriles@gmail.com if you’d like to hear the $$$ specifics.

One Year On…

It is officially one year since I self-published my debut book, Jessie Slaymaker’s Non-Existent Love Life. Hurrah! Not really knowing what to expect and being a complete rookie in the whole self-publishing industry, I’d characterise this past year as a learning curve, but something I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. I hope I’ve progressed and developed as a writer, and learned an awful lot about self-publishing. Here’s to the next year and I look forward to learning from my mistakes (hopefully), writing some good stories (hopefully) and getting those stories out to more my readers (hopefully)!

New Releases

An update for ya’ll… the sequel to Jessie Slaymaker’s Non-Existent Love Life is currently available for pre-order. The official release date when you can get it on your kindles is December 9th and the title is Jessie Slaymaker’s Rules of Engagement. That’s oodles of times before Christmas!

Book 1 - High ResolutionBook 2 - High ResolutionDream Come True - High Resolution - Fix

And now for something different.

I’ve currently got four romance novels out on Amazon and I thought it was high time for something different, just to shake things up a bit. So, first off I decided to jump on the short story bandwagon and write a short story. Then I decided to write a short story in a completely different genre from my more familiar romance world. Behold: my latest literary creation, A Dream Come True. This is my final publication of 2014 (out on 22nd December although you can pre-order now) and is an 11,700 word paranormal fantasy short story. There’s my pretty cover above on the right, and here’s the book blurb:

Have you ever had an incredibly vivid dream? One that stuck with you that you couldn’t get out of your head? Kate Richardson had one such dream about a cat. Not a cute domestic pet, but a terrifying, ferocious feline that assaulted her. She tried her best to forget about her nightmare until mysteriously, one day her dream starts to come true.

Follow Kate as she struggles to understand that her dreams aren’t just dreams, and that they really can come true.

A Dream Come True will be available at a special introductory price of $0.99. So hopefully it won’t break the bank, and it’ll give some of you an entertaining quick read in one of those quiet moments during the festive period.

FREE copy of Fixed-Term Love

Hello Book Lovers,

Owing to the fact that I”m just a super-generous kind of person, I am happy to give away a free copy of my latest book, Fixed-Term Love for people who read on an Amazon kindle.

However, this is the modern world and unfortunately we don’t often get something for nothing. So, what I’m asking for in return is that after you’ve read my latest masterpiece, you take a few minutes to write and post an honest review up on Amazon. It doesn’t have to be long, but I would really appreciate it if those who do receive a copy do post something up.

The deal is that:

1. You email me at joauthoriles@gmail.com requesting a copy of Fixed-Term Love.

2. I will then send you the mobi file to upload onto your kindle.

3. You read the book, and post a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads.

And ta-dah! You have a free book which you have (hopefully) enjoyed, and I get a review.

Obviously, there’s a bit of good faith involved here, as I’m well-aware I can’t exactly chase you down and hound you to the ends of the earth if you don’t review my book. But, I’m willing to take a chance!

So drop me an email and let’s get reading and reviewing – joauthoriles@gmail.com