Glass Half Full?

For the past couple of years, my first post in January has been a review of the previous year’s objectives: what I’ve managed to achieve; and where I’ve been less successful. This has been swiftly followed by a skillful rewriting of the original goals so it looks like I’ve actually achieved everything after all. And then I’ve finished the piece by listing the new objectives for the coming year. So, not being one to ignore a tradition, albeit a relatively new one in my case, here we go again.

2018 Objectives

In January, I set myself five main writerly objectives. And although I didn’t complete all of them, I think I’ve made a reasonable attempt this time around.

To Write and Publish Corruption!

This was the third and final part in my Suzanne Jones series of thrillers set in the sometime murky world of international pharmaceuticals. And in September, I launched the paperback with a party in Chudleigh Church – complete with wonderful recital from Ukrainian mezzo soprano, Iryna Ilnytska and Russian pianist, Polina Shifrina. And two weeks later, we had a six hour online party to launch the ebook. Sales have gone well – and even better, the launch seems to have rekindled interest in the other two part of the series. If you want to check them out, you can find details here.

To update and relaunch books 1-3 in The Business of Writing series

The three ebooks were rewritten and updated, to include a more international approach, in the early part of the year. All three were relaunched in May. In July, I launched a composite paperback version, in time for the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August, where I was also teaching the subject. This confirmed my observation that non-fiction does better in this sort of environment, comprehensively out-selling anything I had ever put into the Book Room in previous years. If you want to check out the series, you can find details here.

To write and publish book 4, on Independent Publishing

This was only a partial success. But there is a good reason for that! When I first published books 1-3, I had already been teaching the material for several years and therefore it was all well tested. The material in book 4 is new, both to me and to my students. So, I decided it needed field-testing before publication. During the year, I taught it at Swanwick, and at the Penzance Literary Festival. I hope to present it a few more times this coming year, including setting up some workshops myself. In the meantime, the book is planned in detail and the first draft will be complete very shortly.

To write and publish a Workbook to accompany books 1-4

As I continued to work on book 4, I realised it was very different in nature from the previous three volumes. In fact, it did not fit the pattern of theory, templates and worked examples at all. I therefore amended the Workbook Plan to cover books 1-3 only. I produced a mock-up and prepared a few copies for field-testing at Swanwick. The feedback was pretty good, so the new paperback, The Business of Writing Part 5, will be available very soon via Amazon and Ingram Spark.

To show a measurable increase in ebook sales

And this is where it starts to break down somewhat. In The Business of Writing Part 1, I spend a lot of time talking about setting SMART objectives. And if you glance back at the previous four, they all qualify as such. But this one falls down on the quantitative aspect. Ironically, I have actually used the word measurable. But what does it mean? An increase of 1% would be measurable; but would it be acceptable? How about 5%; or 50%?

Okay, time to stop prevaricating. I completely failed with this objective! While I put a lot of effort into my pre-launch and launch marketing, I spent very little time throughout the year working on my existing portfolio; and the final figures showed a slight drop rather than increase, measurable or otherwise! A definite case of must do better!

So my end of term report shows two objectives fully completed; one half done; another nearly done; and one complete failure.

But on the other hand (and you knew this was coming, didn’t you?), I refuse to see last year as anything other than a resounding success. In addition to the achievements listed above, I have published twelve issues of Chudleigh Phoenix Community Magazine; kept my weekly personal blog going and revived the Chudleigh Writers’ Circle blog, also with weekly posts; set up a FaceBook group based on The Business of Writing, where I host weekly discussions; completed NaNoWriMo for the sixth year in a row; attended the wonderful Writers’ Summer School at Swanwick for the twelfth time, where I led 7 hours of workshops/sessions and also ran the Book Room; led the team that ran the eighth Chudleigh Literary Festival – our most successful yet, despite competing with the England v Croatia football match; and presented workshops at the Literary Festivals in Penzance and Exeter. I had a wonderful three weeks in Greece with Michael; plus a memorable ten days in the Outer Hebrides with my two sisters. I did less singing this year, but still managed one production with Red Earth Opera. On two successive nights at concerts in a tiny old church in Oxfordshire, I saw Bryn Terfel and Hannah Stone; followed by Imelda May. I was heavily involved in our town’s joint celebrations of The Armistice and Women’s Suffrage in November. And there was still plenty of time throughout the year for friends and family.

Last year, I described myself as a glass-half-full person. Actually, I think I’m more of a “glass spilling over, we’re going to need a bigger glass” person.

2019 Writing Objectives

I’m calling this year The Year Of Doing It My Way and I am planning to have even more fun and be even more creative along the way. So the objectives are a little wide, but deliberately so:

  1. To increase my level of marketing for the whole portfolio and to achieve an acceptable level of sales by the end of the year. (And yes, I know that’s not fully SMART, but I have some numbers written in my head, which I’m too shy to disclose at present. However,  I WILL share them in next year’s review, whatever happens.)
  2. To spend ten months researching and planning the next novel, which is going to be a time-slip set in Russia, possibly with a fantasy element; and to write the first draft during NaNoWriMo in November.
  3. To publish The Business of Writing Part 4 Independent Publishing by July.
  4. To find homes for lots of my archived material: short stories, and travel pieces.

So, let’s get together again on the first Monday in 2020, where I will ‘fess up how I’ve done with this year’s objectives.

In the meantime to all my writing buddies: a very happy, successful writerly new year. And to all readers out there: keep doing what you do; without you, it’s all just so many words.

By Elizabeth Ducie

Elizabeth Ducie was a successful international manufacturing consultant, when she decided to give it all up and start telling lies for a living instead.

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