Accountability Wednesdays: Week 1

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Here we are at Week #1. Barring any strange incidents or complications there will be 52 of these posts over the course of 2014, and it is my genuine hope and desire that Accountability Wednesdays will turn out to be less whiny and more filled with actual accomplishment than Accountability Tuesdays were. Unfortunately week #1 of 2014 was marred by the demon cold from hell, but I still have a little bit to report, so let’s move on with it, shall we?

Goal #1: Lose at least ten pounds and become healthier overall.

As mentioned above, the past week was greatly affected by the hell cold that has been afflicting my family since Christmas. My husband has since gotten over it and my daughter is only clinging to a bit of a cough and an occasionally runny nose, but the beginning of this week was the worst for me. I got through the holidays, but by the time the 3rd hit (cruelly, the day I was supposed to head down home for a family party) I was in absolute misery. For two days straight nothing I did could make my body feel any less icy cold (except for the very middle of the night when I would start to sweat like my insides were on fire), and every inch of me ached like I’d been run over by an entire fleet of Mack trucks. I could hardly move, and my playful daughter had absolutely no sympathy.

I’m on the mend now, except for a stubborn cough that refuses to go away, but you can probably understand that I didn’t do much any exercising this week.

On the upside of things I’ve been readopting some good habits, like drinking water throughout the day, and because I was having a hard time eating anything for a few days there, I’ve actually cost a couple of pounds. I started the year at 159.2 lbs, and as of the typing of this post I’m weighing in at 156.6. I know it’s not a healthy weight loss by any means, but I’ll take the little boost in return for a few days of wanting someone to put me out of my misery.

Goal #2: Be more active on social media and work hard on my “author platform”.

I’m realizing now that this is going to be a hard thing to report, but I’ll do the best I can. I was slightly more active on social media this week. I made a point to hop on Twitter a couple of times, and one of those tweets ended up being favorited by someone, so that’s a good sign that someone is still paying attention to me, ha ha. I’ve also been working myself back into reading other writers’ blogs, which took a back-burner during the holidays. I’ll be back to commenting and commiserating in no time.

Also, a friend “shared” one of my blog posts on Facebook the other day which, while not a direct result of my own action, is always nice to see. Please keep sharing, friends! I need all the help I can get!

Goal #3: COMPLETE my zombie apocalypse novel, Nowhere to Hide.

Don’t hit me! I haven’t touched this one this week. Mostly this is attributed to the fact that I’ve been on my own computer a grand total of about two minutes a day lately. But I’m hoping to work on this one this week, before I end up flying back out West for my first shift. There’s really not that much left to do, and I’d really, really like to be done of it and have it sent off to my beta-reader before I head out West, since there’s not much productive I can do via my tablet when I’m out there.

Wish me luck!

Goal #4: Write 500,000 words.

All things considered, it was a fairly decent week since I lost two days to near-death and all. I am, however, a little disappointed in myself. In order to complete this goal this year I need to write a little less than 10,000 words per week. This week I wrote 4535 words. Every one of those words was for the purpose of this blog. I’m disappointed not only because I didn’t even come halfway to the weekly goal, but also because I realized that it’s been a long time now since I wrote any new fiction. Aside from working on my manuscript, I have a fantasy adventure and a major fan fiction that I could be working on, not to mention things like drabbles, flash fiction, or hell, even morning pages. If I could convince myself to start doing morning pages again I would be in for an extra 5000 or more words each week.

So yeah, there’s work to be done, but we’re only on the first week of the year so I won’t be too hard on myself.

Keep me accountable, ladies and gents! Keep me accountable!

Significantly-More-Probable Goals 2014

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it’s the new year again. We’ve crossed that barrier over into 2014 and are busy rubbing our eyes and staring ahead to all the possibilities that a new year holds. Personally, I find myself curled up on the couch under my new TARDIS blanket, plucking away this post while my husband and daughter are still asleep, hoping fervently that how I feel this morning is not a sign of what the year to come will be like. Begone, mysterious aches and pains! Go afflict someone who is actually old enough to feel this sore!

Anyway, this post isn’t about the fact that I seem to be suffering from an exceptionally painful cold (without any of the other symptoms). This post is about the fact that it is January 1st, a day rife with possibilities. What will the new year hold?

Well first of all, some of you may have guessed from this post that I wrote on Monday, that I’m going to be returning to the oil sands soon. Yes, after six straight months of glorious freedom unemployment, I’m set to begin work on the other side of the country again, starting the 21st of this month, with the same company and the same schedule that I had last time. This comes with mixed feelings, of course. It won’t be fun to leave my husband and daughter for half of every month again, and since I’ll be returning to the field instead of the control room I will find myself in a very difficult-to-get-any-writing-done position, but I do love the company, and it will be great to have some income again. What really worries me is that I’m going to be heading out to Northern Alberta in what is usually the coldest month, after having been snuggled all warm and cozy in the control room for the last half of last winter. My body may go through a bit of a shock. Luckily we always work in teams of two out there, so there will be someone to drag my frozen solid ass back to the trailers every day. Wish me luck, people. Wish me luck.

"Don't worry, ma. You go out West. I'll handle this!"
“Don’t worry, ma. You go out West. I’ll handle this!”

Secondly, since it’s a near year it’s time for new goals. At the beginning of 2013 I wrote out three “Wildly Improbable Goals”. Technically, I failed on all three of them, but having them down as goals definitely helped me get some things done, make some changes in my life and my way of thinking, and overall I had a rather productive year, as compared to previous years.

This year I’ve decided that I’m going to be a little less “Wildly Improbable” and a bit more, “you damn-well know that you can do this, so DO IT” with my goals. I want my goals to be things that I know I can complete, if I’d just get off my ass and work on them. So let’s start, shall we?

Goal #1: Lose at least ten pounds and become healthier overall.

I know, I know…don’t look at me like that. This is not one of those, “oh, it’s the new year so I’m going to buy a bunch of exercise equipment that I’ll only use for two weeks before it becomes a coat rack” kind of goals.

You see, I’ve been getting older, and the genes that my parents passed down to me don’t like that. I’ll be turning 30 in 2014, and while that is still pretty damn young to most people, to my physical being it’s like hitting the countdown to complete bodily failure. Things are starting to catch up with me, and I don’t like them.

For one thing, I seem to have inherited a wonderful trait from my father, wherein every second thing that I eat makes me feel like little needle-clawed demons are trying to rip their way out of my digestive tract. My father dealt with this for years before a doctor basically told him to eat a lot more fiber, and oh, throw some yogurt in there too. It sounds like a throwaway answer, but my dad has been doing great, so part of my health goal for this year is to make sure that there is always lots of fiber in my diet. Hopefully the result will be a calmer, less-demon-infested stomach.

The “at least 10 pounds” part of the goal is in there because, to be honest, I’m falling apart at the seams and I blame a good part of that on the extra 20-40 lbs that is hanging on to my body. I’m perfectly fine with the way I look right now, but I’m not fine with the way I feel. Even before the mysterious New Year’s aches-and-pains from hell, I’ve been feeling pretty crappy most of the time. I’m always sore in one spot or another, I’m extremely lethargic most of the time, and I’m so cranky and slow on a regular basis that it makes it very difficult to play with my daughter. I really believe that most of this could be fixed by losing a bit of weight (and, obviously, being more active in general), so I’m making it a goal. I’m not worried about getting down to what I perceive as the “proper” weight…I’m just going to worry about the first 10 pounds and then move on from there. Are we all cool with that? Okay, good.

Goal #2: Be more active on social media and work hard on my “author platform”.

2013 saw a lot of ups and downs for me as far as the whole social media = great author platform thing. I always managed to keep pressing forward with my blog, but other forms of social media often fell by the wayside. Twitter is one of the greatest things out there for connecting with other writers, agents, publishers, readers, and so on, and it only takes a few seconds to type up a Tweet, and yet I regularly go for weeks without Tweeting a single thing aside from the auto-Tweets that WordPress shoots out when I write a blog post.

This year I want to be more active and more diligent with my author platform. I want to show people that, yes, I’m really here, and hey, how are you doing today? More and more this is becoming an extremely important part of being a successful writer, and I don’t want to be left behind in the dust.

Goal #3: COMPLETE my zombie apocalypse novel, Nowhere to Hide.

This one feels more “wildly improbable” than the others, but it’s not…it’s NOT, dammit!

I spent the last year trying to finish editing on my manuscript, and that task is almost complete. I already have a beta-reader lined up to swap manuscripts with. This year is going to be the year of really, truly, finishing a novel. I know that my manuscript has problems even before my beta-reader touches it, but I plan to sit back and wait to hear what she has to say, and then work my ass off once she hands it back. If at all possible I want to publish by the end of this year. I want my zombie novel to be out there before zombies stop being something that people want to read about (which is why I definitely will not be going with traditional publishing…man, you guys are SLOW). This is a big thing for me. By the end of 2014 I want to be a published author.

And to all my religious friends, your prays are totally welcome on this one. 😛

Goal #4: Write 500,000 words.

Last year I made the Wildly Improbable Goal to write one million words over the course of a year. Though that goal turned out to be completely out of my league (it didn’t occur to me until halfway through the first month that this would be over 83,000 words a month), I did end up writing significantly more words in 2013 than in any year previous…possibly in all the years previous.

I came with in striking distance of 500,000 words last year, so this year I want to exceed that goal and beat my own personal record. Half a mil over the course of a year is just over 41,000 words a month. Judging from last year it will be difficult, but I have faith that I’ll be able to pull it off.

                                                           

And there you have it. Four goals for the New Year, all of them significantly more probable than not. I’m going to continue on with my accountability posts (though they’ll be moving to Wednesdays now) because personally I find nothing helps with a goal so much as admitting to the general public that you haven’t been working on it. 😛

How about it, friends and fellow bloggers? What are your goals for the New Year?

A Blogger by Any Other Name

There is no doubt that social media is a powerful tool. Complain all you like about the kind of people who upload their every passing thought to Facebook, or those who insist on documenting every bite they eat to Instagram, but when you break past the nonsense social media is an amazing way of connecting to people from all over the world, which is a huge deal for an entrepreneur (writer).

But it doesn’t help the entrepreneur in the slightest if their only followers are family members and people they already knew from school or work. The entrepreneur needs to spread their social network, create a spiderweb of connections and interconnections.

Image via thecricketcontrast.com

In Kristen Lamb‘s Rise of the Machines she talks about the three different types of social media friends you want to know – the three different types of people who will help your platform grow.

The Connector brings more people into the fold. The Connector seems to know everyone, and through them the entrepreneur meets many new people as well.

The Maven is a treasure trove of useful information. They always seem to know where you should go or what you should do. They help the entrepreneur become a better entrepreneur.

The Salesman is the person that everyone listens to. If the Salesmen hypes up the entrepreneur’s work (book), you can be damn sure that people will buy it.

As I was reading about these three types of people, I began thinking about whether I knew any of them yet. It took a bit of thinking but I realized that, yes, I do know a few of each, though I’m not sure I know any Salesmen that know me well enough to do what they do best for me.

Then I got to thinking…do I fall into any of these categories?

I’m definitely not a Connector. At this juncture in my life I can definitely say that I know a lot of people, but that’s not exactly the same thing. I have a large family, so I know them, and some of their friends by extension. I know the people I went through school with, though I barely connect with them anymore. I met a ton of people out West while I was working there, and I even have a ton of them added to Facebook and LinkedIN, but again, I connect with very few of them. The fact is that I am actually quite shy, even after all I’ve done and at the ripe old age of 29. I’m not a Connector because I don’t like to connect. Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite fond of most of the people I’ve come to meet over the years, but I’m also the kind of person who sits in a corner at a party until she’s drunk enough to force herself to speak to someone.

I really wouldn’t call myself a Maven either. I do retain information from time to time and have been known to help people out with some well-timed advice, but this is not the norm. I neither retain every bit of information I come across, nor do I make it my mission to share this information with others. In fact, if I come across a good piece of info that I think will help me in the future, I have to record it some manner (blog, notes on my iPhone, etc) or else I will totally forget about it. No, I’m definitely not a Maven.

Salesman? No, this one is even worse than the first two. I can’t be a Salesman. For one thing, even though I blog and Tweet and update my status on Facebook, I am actually still quite shy and have trouble with this concept of trying to convince others to buy something (this is going to become a huge issue later on when I do get a book published and need to market it). For another thing, I’m not the kind of person of whom people automatically trust the opinion. I like such a wide variety of things, that it makes people wary. Someone might not take my suggestion to watch a particular horror movie, for example, because I also recommended this god-awful b-horror-movie that I happened to love. You see what I’m getting at here?

So if I’m not a Connector, not a Maven, and not a Salesman…what am I? Am I just some weirdo hanging out on all the social media outlets, not contributing anything at all to the spiderweb?

No. I contribute, just not in the ways discussed.

I’m a writer. I write about life as a writer, life as a mother, life as a wife. I write zombie horrors and supernatural romances, fantasies and fan-fictions. I write novels and short-stories. I write blog posts.

And because I am a writer I also read. I read blogs, Twitter updates, and Facebook statuses. I read fiction novels and craft books and bits of writing that fellow writers share on the internet.

Through this identity of writer-and-reader I contribute a little bit in every way. I may not be a Connector, but I will occasionally send a writer friend along to a writing group or introduce a blogger to another blog I think they’ll like. I may not be a Maven but I’ll sometimes critique a writer’s work by using the tips and tricks I managed to glean from the last craft book I read. I may not be a Salesman, but I will absolutely promote what I feel requires promoting, especially if it’s something I absolutely loved myself.

So I guess you could say that I’m a protege. I have tiny bits of all three types of people in me, fighting to be something helpful, and that’s okay. We can’t all be precisely labeled by the exact function we serve in society, but we can still contribute in a real and meaningful way.

Hi, my name is Tracey. I’m a Social Media Writer-Reader.

Author Platforms 101

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

92. Building a platform

For this topic, along with a few other topics I’ve spoken on in the past, I would like to direct you over to Kristen Lamb’s blog. Kristen is the goddess of all things social media and author platform. Anything I know already (which isn’t much), I’ve learned from her. If it weren’t for the good fortune of stumbling across her blog once and deciding to follow it, I wouldn’t know a damn thing about having an author platform. In fact, I’m not sure I would even know what the words “author platform” mean.

Put simply, Writer’s Digest defines an author platform as “your visibility as an author”. It is through this “visibility” that you connect with current and potential readers and (hopefully) sell books. You do so by making yourself available through such things as a professional website, blogs, mailing lists, social media, and any professional connections you have.

Currently my “author platform” is somewhat compact. I have this blog, which is my epicenter, as well as a Twitter account, and accounts at FictionPress.com and Fanfiction.net. I have no connections, to speak of, because I haven’t been in the game very long, and I’m held back by my career in the trades. I don’t currently share my Facebook page with readers because I haven’t yet figured out how to do so without readers being able to see every part of me, so to speak. I want to have some semblance of privacy, after all, some stuff that only family and friends can see.

Someday I hope for my author platform to grow because there is no doubt (now that I know what one is) that it is an important aspect of becoming a successful writer. So for now I keep my eye on Kristen and anyone else who enjoys sharing their knowledge and insights. Thanks all!

Twitter: The Paranoia that Binds Us

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

89. Respond to a blog post by a well-known blogger

My first thought when reading this prompt was: “A well-known blogger? Do I even read well-known blogs?” Sure, I read some blogs by people who are fairly popular, even successful, but are they well-known? How do you even define well-known? The basis of comparison that I immediately think of is that if you typed their name (or blogger handle) into Google they would be the first result that shows up. So with that in mind I set out to Google a few of the bloggers who I keep tabs on. Lo and behold, my test worked for several of them. Would you look at that…I read well-known blogs.

My second thought was: “Okay, so which post should I ‘respond’ to?” So I started backtracking through the piles and piles of posts that have been piling up on my “Blogs I Follow” page. I started reading through posts I had skipped because I was busy at the time, re-reading posts that I might not have paid quite enough attention to, and in general searching for something that I felt would be interesting to respond to. This virtual rummaging-through-the-closet ended up creating a number of distractions, as such a thing is like to do, and at some point I happened to come across a mention of “The Bloggess“. It got me thinking, that as popular as this particular blogger supposedly is, I’ve never bothered to stop by her blog.

That’s how I found myself scrolling through the most recent of The Bloggess‘ posts, chuckling to myself because, contrary to how I’d been imagining her, she’s a bit of a nut. I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting – I think I was equating the word “bloggess” with the word “duchess” and imaging her as a stuck-up, better-blogger-than-thou type – but I was pleasantly surprised. Her posts are amusing, well-written, and don’t hold anything back. It was with that in mind that I finally chose a “blog post by a well-known blogger” to respond to.

The post I’ve chosen is Twitter is confusing.

My response is thus: I hear ya sis.

(Is ‘sis’ the appropriate female version of ‘bro’? Somehow it doesn’t sound right to me. Ladies, I suggest we hijack the word ‘bro’. The guys have used it long enough.)

*ahem* Anyway, I hear ya, Bloggess! Twitter is oft more confusing to me than I might admit. While I’ve never had people contact me to let me know that they aren’t going to follow me anymore, I’ve had plenty of people start following me only to never attempt to interact with me in any way, which just feels like stalking to me. That’s not to say that I assign a time-slot every day specifically to ensure that I interact with the Tweeps I follow, but I do make a habit of not bothering to follow people if I have no intention of ever interacting with them ever.

Most of my Twitter experience has consisted of signing in, looking at the “Interactions” page that shows x-number of new people are following me, and quietly rocking back and forth in a corner while muttering, “Who are you people…who ARE YOU PEOPLE?!”

Come to think of it, maybe Twitter isn’t for me. It exacerbates the paranoia.

Consolidation is Not Just for Financial Debts

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

86. A turning point in your writing career.

Quick, answer me this question first: can you have a turning point in your career if you don’t technically have a career?

Okay, for the purposes of this post we’ll presume that the word “career” refers to time and effort put into something, rather than an actual livelihood. Good? Good.

Now that we have that straightened away, I believe that the most important turning point of my writing career was when I decided to consolidate my Internet presence. If that sounds strange or confusing, let me explain. Prior to starting this blog, my Internet presence was scattered across the web in small, meaningless fragments. I had several failed webcomics, an “art” website that I rarely updated, a Tumblr account that served no purpose than to echo the art site, a handful of different blogs and online journals of which none had any real focus, and one account on pretty much every social media outlet out there. Most of this stuff served as a fun distraction from life for a little while, but in the end they were meaningless wastes of my time that accomplished nothing for me and causes unneeded levels of stress.

When I decided to start this blog I also made another decision: to cut all the other stuff loose. I kept some stuff of course; Facebook and Twitter can be useful, and my Fanfiction.net and FictionPress.com accounts are excellent hosts for stories I want to share for free. All the other stuff, however, I cut away without mercy. I deleted accounts, removed websites, and murdered meaningless wastes of time with a grim smile on my face. I had decided, finally, that I was going to focus my spare time and energy on writing and building a related social media presence. Now I blog, I tweet, I keep an eye on Facebook, and I write. And believe me, it has made all the difference. I’ve been writing on this blog (mostly) consistently for almost a year now, which is a longer stretch of consecutive time than I’ve ever stuck with one project before. In addition to that, since I made the decision to put my focus on writing I’ve written more than ever before. I’ve finished one manuscript and am getting ever closer to finishing another. I don’t think I would be exaggeration if I said that I’ve written more in the past years than in the total ten years previous. It really was an excellent decision that has seriously affected my writing “career” for the better, and I just hope I am able to keep it up for as long as it takes to turn that “career” into a career.

Write Everyday!

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

48. Advice you wish someone had given you

Over the past couple of years I’ve been delving deeper and deeper into the social networking aspect of being a writer. I run this blog, tweet when I think of something I think is worth saying, and browse the ‘net for interesting material written by my fellow online authors. During this social journey I’ve found myself regularly stumbling across bits of advice on various aspects of writing, managing the lifestyle of a writer, getting published, and so on. Everyone out there (myself included) feels the need to impart our little pieces of wisdom, and there is one particular tidbit that I’ve seen come up on a very regular basis:

Write Everyday.

There is a saying going around, based on an idea posed by Malcolm Gladwell, that a person needs 10,000 hours of practice with something in order to become an expert. While that number may not be accurate for everyone (natural talent – or lack thereof – have to account for something as well), it’s an understandable concept. In order to become good at something you have to practice, or in other words, spend a lot of time working on it. As with anything, writing is something that takes a good deal of time and effort to become good at (and you should never stop trying to get better), and therefore you should Write Everyday.

It seems ridiculously obvious to me now, but I really wish someone would have imparted this particular piece of advice on me when I was much younger, when it first became apparent to me that I would always want to be a writer regardless of whatever else occurred in my life. If I had taken the time to Write Everyday since the third grade just imagine how much practice I would have behind me! Imagine how many words I would have put to paper, how many finished stories I might have to my name! Imagine how much more confident I might be, how much closer I may have come toward publication! And while it is never too late to change, to do what you think you should be doing, you can’t deny the fact that I would have benefited from this idea much more earlier in my life. These days I have many more responsibilities: I have a demanding work schedule, a husband and daughter who both require my time and attention, a household that needs taking care of, and a host of other daily tasks and concerns that require dealing with. These days it is much harder to Write Everyday, but if I had known to do so when I was younger I could have had years of this practice behind my belt before all these other responsibilities came to light.

In conclusion, if there are any younguns out there right now who aspire to become writers and have somehow managed to stumble across this blog, I’m giving you the advice that I never got: WRITE EVERYDAY!