Big ben 

by Alexandra Sokoloff

So here we all are in that lost week between Christmas and New Year's – the week I think of as "The Crack" (nothing dirty or illegal,the term is from the Mary Poppins books actually, and bonus points for anyone who gets the allusion). 

Do you all do New Year's Resolutions?   I used to, but I don't remember having done them the last few years.   If I didn't, I imagine it was because I was lost in the new author vortex.   It's hard to take a breath and step back and look at the whole next year if all you can think of is the approaching deadline, or if you're on tour, or if you're waiting to hear back on a proposal.

This end-of-the-year isn't any less harried for me than the last few, but it feels like it is for some reason, and I think that reason might be that I have a better sense of the shape of next year than I have had the last two years.   

Part of this is that after two or three, depending on when you want to start counting) years now as an author,  I have a better idea of how long things take. Yeah, I have galleys to correct by the 6th (Grrrrr….  that's not what I call a Merry Christmas present….), but I've done them before now and I know I'll get them done.  Yes, the sudden arrival of the galleys interrupted my resolve to get to the end of my second draft of the book I'm writing in my spare time by New Year's Eve, and I'm pissed about it, but I think I'm going to make it anyway, if I divide my day carefully.

So instead of doing a list of resolutions, I'm finding myself looking at the overall shape of my work year in 2009 – something I've never really done or even been able to do before.   Being self-employed – and I have been for pretty much my whole adult life – makes your work life maybe a little too spontaneous and improvisational, but lo and behold, the business side next year really does structure itself out in amazingly clear way.

In the first quarter of 2009 I will finish this secret other book (shhh), and keep churning out the first draft of my Bahamas book (my fourth for St. Martin's.)  Michael and  I will go to the Bahamas for research – and vacation! –  courtesy of my MIL, yay!!!    When I finish the secret book I will continue working on the Bahamas book and start on the outline for my paranormal for Harlequin Nocturne.

I also have a novella in an anthology that we'll be taking out in the beginning of the new year.

I have conferences I am going to in  the first quarter of 2009 but not too many, and they're easy travel, like the South Carolina Book Festival, and I'm being paid to go to all of them, at least expenses, so that's huge progress.

In the second quarter of 2009 we will start moving into our new (renovated house), but it's not the same kind of stress as moving moving because we don't have to SWITCH houses, and there's no deadlines involved – we just have to get ourselves gradually over to the other one, and it's walking distance.  That will be a great burst of energy in the spring, to start in a beautiful new home.   Michael just finished the back deck this last week which I know we're going to live on, so I'm looking forward to that new office…

THE UNSEEN comes out at the end of May, by which time I'll be finished with and have turned in both the outline for the paranormal and the Bahamas book, so I can put a good concentrated month or two into touring and conferences just as the season picks up.  I'll be hitting some big ones:  BEA, RWA National, Thrillerfest, the Horror Writers Association Stoker weekend, ALA.

I''ll also be teaching a lot of workshops on story structure and screenwriting techniques for authors at these cons, so I'll be growing that book on the side.

After that flurry of touring, end of Junish, we're into third quarter of 2009, and I will be ready to power through on the paranormal book, due in October, and also I'll start outlining my seventh novel   Yes, I said seventh.   Astonishing!

And realistically I bet I will have started that one way before June.

Of course I'll be doing revisions on the Bahamas book throughout the summer, too.

It doesn't seem possible, but if I work just a few pages at a time throughout the year, I am pretty sure I will also have my story structure book done by fall, if not before.   Also in the fall the UK versions of my books start coming out, so maybe by then a nice promotional trip to England or Australia will be in order – it's something to keep in mind.

And with all that laid out so nicely, I don't think I have to plan the fourth quarter of 2009 too extensively – whatever has happened during the first half of the year will shape the second half of it.

Looking at that 2009 overview, it's clear to me why I'm feeling less than frantic at the end of this year, even though of course the writers' life is always full of stressors, some self-created, some real.

Life is always a huge variable, but the shape of my work year is solid and I can look at it and both think – "Yeah, I can handle all that," and "Wow, what a fantastic life I have!"    It's my perfect combination of factors – a strong structure with lots of fun variations and improvisations within it.

But within that grand plan, I guess I also have a few resolutions.

– Dance more.  
– Meditate every day.   Well, most days.
– Swing classes with Michael so that we can go out dancing together.
– Start a collage book of decorating ideas for the new house.
– Keep in better touch with friends and spend a lot of time with family.

Not that many, but doable.    I'm hoping to get more ideas from YOU all, because of course my questions for today are – Do you ever do a year plan or overview?   If so, what's yours?

And/or – what are your resolutions?


21 thoughts on “Resolved

  1. R.J. Mangahas

    I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions, but rather set a few small goals at a time. I guess it just makes it more attainable that way. I used to write a list and carry it around with me in my wallet and cross off each thing as I accomplished it, but it got frustrating as the list grew longer and things were not crossed off.

    So, I just started setting a few goals at a time.

    Although, I have one main goal this year: to have a draft that’s submission ready (or at least close to it) by or before 2009’s Bouchercon.

    Hope you don’t “research” to hard while in the Bahamas. And I’m looking forward to UNSEEN. The cover looks great by the way. Is that the final?

  2. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Hey RJ! I’m not a big fan of that list of resolutions – this is the first year, when I was looking out over my year in this post, I finally understood why. It’s so much more satisfying to look over the SHAPE of the year for me – which makes sense because I’m such a structure nut. I need to see the big picture, and I finally figured out how to do that with a year, too.

    Your main goal is fabulous – and I’m sure you’ll get there.

    Re: THE UNSEEN cover – I think you’re thinking of the one I sent out in my newsletter. It’s been completely changed. Sigh. I loved that cover, but the new one is beautiful and I think it works better for the book and the target audience.

    I’ll post it on my own blog when I’m sure that’s really it! 😉

  3. billie

    I do goals for the year, and also for 5 and 10 years.

    This year I plan to move on with the novel mss that have been collecting in my garret and my head. I feel like I got stuck on the first one. The second one is out there now, and instead of waiting around, I’ll get the third one edited and out hopefully in Jan/Feb. so I can move on and finish the YA novel, and follow up some interest in my nonfiction book.

    I have two more novels in my head, with a few pages of notes in the Moleskine, and it would be fun to get to those late in the year.

    My other plan is to up my dressage training so I can get two of my horses going solidly at second and third level by the end of the year.

    Write and ride. 🙂

  4. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Wow, Billie, great year ahead for you!

    You would have to bring up the 5 and 10 year plans, though, wouldn’t you?

    I guess I should take a look at that, but that’s such a long long way to step back and look…

  5. joylene

    I don’t need to make a New Year’s resolution to write book number 6; I’ve started. I need to get over my fear of public events and schedule a small B.C. book tour.

    It’s just that I hate winter roads & touring BC means traveling by vehicle through the Pine Pass and Fraser Canal. I know, I’m making excuses.

    Just thinking about visiting bookstores from Vancouver to Prince George makes my stomach queasy. Not to mention the icy road conditions. And people in the Lower Mainland “do not” know how to drive in winter.

    Of course, the sooner I get it over with…

    On a positive note: I sent my book to Mike McCardell at Global BC News, and he sent me a handwritten letter. He thought Dead Witness was wonderful. That was nice.

    Happy New Year, everyone. Your blogs have been outstanding, & I’m looking forward to next year’s.

  6. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Joylene, it doesn’t sound to me like you’re making excuses. It sounds like you’re factoring some healthy self-preservation into the idea of touring on winter roads. And this is supposed to be a bad winter all the way around.

    I learned my lesson last year and didn’t schedule any cross-country travel from Dec. 15 to the end of February.

    Listen to your gut!

    And a very happy and safe New Year to you, too.

  7. pari

    New Year is always a nice time to look at goals and changes. I’m doing that right now and haven’t come up with definite ones.

    The only thing I know for certain is that I want my mind quieter so that I can feel that creative spark — the addictive joy of coming up with something new — and act upon it.

    That’ll probably mean some real scheduling this year — especially when it comes to non-writing computer stuff (blogs, games, email etc.) and I’m sure to have figured out the shape of that before Dec. 31.

    Last year’s goal was to write three books. Well, I wrote one three times ;-). I hope this year is more tangibly productive.

    Have a wonderful celebration, Alex.

  8. billie

    Think of the 5 and 10 year thing more as what you want to happen, not so linear or confined to/by knowing how you’ll get there.

    And remember it can change, and surely will.

    I just like having a place to put the bigger picture things “in the picture” so to speak. With no pressure on my part to “make” them happen.

    Funny thing happening today – I’ve been typing in novel edits and suddenly my blog has started getting very frequent hits from the very little town where this story is set.

    Reminds me of the phone calls from the little motel that happened a few years back.

    Moral of the story – don’t forget to leave plenty of room in your goals for the magic to happen. 🙂

  9. Louise Ure

    Alex, with a schedule like that, you don’t need any resolutions!

    My own commitments are small: I vow every day to somehow make myself a better person and the world a better place. Pretty open ended, but it has lots of possibilities, no?

  10. J.T. Ellison

    Lovely post, Alex. I still don’t know how you do it all.

    I’m cutting back drastically this year so I can be like Pari, have the quietness of mind that allows for maximum creativity.

    I haven’t set actual goals before, but I’m thinking about trying this year. I’ve been reading Julia Morgenstern’s book “Time Management from the Inside Out” and she makes a point about setting goals versus setting activities. I think I’ve always looked at things from the activity side. So it’s a change in thought process too.

  11. Alexandra Sokoloff

    “Last year’s goal was to write three books. Well, I wrote one three times ;-). “

    That made me LOL, Pari. Some books take longer than others and that’s just the way it is – “the best laid plans”! I struggled so hard with THE UNSEEN that I only wrote one book last year, too. But I did write MOST of a second one, and started two more, and that’s a whole lot that will come to fruition this year and next.

    But you – you’re doing the miraculously tangible thing of raising a family, too. You’re a phenomenon to me.

  12. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Lovely goals, Louise, just like you.

    I wondered – do you have a certain person or teaching that you’re following in your quest? What I mean is (and maybe this should be a whole post, but…) – sometimes a spiritual teacher will give you a very simple idea or directive that becomes a way of living that really does feel like a step on the right direction (toward enlightenment, I guess).

    One thing I got from reading Chopra was the idea that you can give everyone you meet a gift. Of course everyone has bad days when that’s maybe not going to happen, but that very simple idea was a real revelation to me, and I guess I just wondered if you could be more specific.

  13. Alexandra Sokoloff

    JT, I don’t know how ANY of us do it. Everyone else’s schedules and productivity constantly make my jaw drop.

    I guess we always think that we can do more.

    I’d just like to say to you and Pari that frenzy is not always a bad thing for creativity, either – although it’s not that comfortable, maybe.

    Speaking as one of the often-frenzied.

  14. Louise Ure

    Alex, I’m a well-read, historically curious Roaming Catholic who lives with a guy who brags about getting “free milk for pagan babies” when in elementary school, so I guess I’m a mishmash of cultural identity and beliefs.

    The easy answer to your question is that I believe in Fran Lebowitz’s line: “You can’t go around hoping that most people have sterling moral characters. The most you can hope for is that people will pretend that they do.”

  15. Becky Hutchison

    Wow, Alex, you have a lot going on in 2009. I share your goals to achieve closer relationships with friends and family and to meditate every day. (For Christmas I bought a prayer bowl with a beautiful tone. Hopefully it will help silence my internal chatter.)

    Here are my other goals for 2009:

    1. Declutter my house and my life.2. Become more organized with paper, important items and things-to-do.3. Plan a dedicated daily writing time.4. Transform our middle bedroom into my new office.5. Finish my WIP.6. Thank my family (especially my husband) every day for believing in me and supporting my writing life.

  16. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Ooh, Becky, a prayer bowl! I love it when teachers use them in yoga class but I’ve never had one of my own.

    I would like to at least attempt the first two on your list:

    1. Declutter my house and my life.2. Become more organized with paper, important items and things-to-do.

    See, I knew I’d get ideas from you guys.

  17. Kathleen Peacock

    Goals for 2009:

    1) Query agents about “Made You Look”.2) Complete (at a minimum) a first draft of “Hemlock” (I’m hoping I’ll get further but I’m also hoping 2009 will be a bit more balanced).3) Find a better apartment.4) Find a way to better balance a full time job and writing while not forgetting to take care of myself.

  18. Allison Brennan

    I don’t like making New Years resolutions because either 1) I set them too high and if I don’t achieve them, I feel like I’ve failed or 2) I set them too low that I fear I won’t try to exceed them. But . . .

    I hope to increase my workout to three days a week, write a minimum of 10 pages a day, and go to all my daughter’s home games and as many away games as I can.

  19. Gayle Carline

    In the past, I was so serious about my New Year’s resolutions that not meeting them would depress me horribly. Then I began making resolutions I knew I could keep, like resolving never to sit through RoboCop again. This year I will be debuting my very first novel ever and I don’t know what all of the marketing and publicity will entail and I’m excited and nervous and I know I’ve got to get the next one written in the midst of it all and… okay, well, you can see how my 2009 is shaping up. I think at this point I should resolve to do what I know I WILL do: alternate between utilizing my vast creativity and organizational skills to sell my book and sitting in a corner, rocking and mumbling.

    Oh, yeah, and I have to plan my son’s choir’s dinner theater.


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