Thursday, December 31, 2015

FOCUS: My Goal for 2016

Now Christmas is past, the themes being expounded tend to fall into two categories:

1. The best of last year (choose your category--they are myriad)

2. Resolutions for the coming year.

When it comes to books, there are too many I have read and enjoyed to narrow them down to a recommendation list.

But, when it comes to resolutions regarding my writing, I have been letting that one tumble around in my conscious and subconscious for months. When one of my Facebook friends started a string asking us to choose one word for 2016, I looked over other suggestions and liked them all. But my choice was FOCUS.

FOCUS - Part One

For starters, like so many people I know, life is full of distractions. 
  • There are the mundane chores in life. Do you really think I want to spend my days grocery shopping, preparing meals, laundry, dishes, housecleaning--you know what I mean.
  • Life is full of people who believe that you really want to fulfill their wish list (or it needs to be done list). After all, what are family and friends for? It's not like I still have a job where I validate my existence by bringing in a biweekly paycheck or I have a boss that will fire me if I don't show up to work when scheduled.
  • Then there are the activities in which I voluntarily involved myself, only to find that once I accepted a volunteer position--along with the extra projects and board meetings--I really shot myself in the foot as far as being the owner of my own schedule.

  • When I started writing, it was much easier. While working around my schedule of weekly obligations, I blocked several hours per day on several days per week on my cell phone's calendar. I refused to schedule anything during those times. Then my obligations changed. On top of everything I was doing, I started to spend more time on promoting my published books. That included writing monthly posts for blogs offering spots for other authors to share their books on my blogs--sort of a mutual cross-promotion effort. I also started administering a group blog under my pen name, Zina Abbott. At the time I decided to do this, I had no idea how much time I would lose to communicating with authors and organizing in order to keep everything straight. Now those times set aside for me to actually write are more of a wish than a scheduled event.
I'm back to square one. If I really want to WRITE, I need to FOCUS. Will that mean refusing some of those secretary, treasurer, newsletter editor jobs and their accompanying board meetings? Will that mean paying closer attention to my calendar so when the secretaries at my (and my husband's) doctors' offices want to schedule a time, I be more assertive about which days and times I'm available? Does that mean I need to become even more adept at saying NO? Probably YES to all of the above.

FOCUS - Part Two

I have not joined every professional organization for writers available. I notice that several authors spend a lot of time going to conventions, conferences and retreats. I did the convention circuit when I was in the Rural Letter Carriers' union, so I have a lot of that out of my system. 

But, one professional organization I am thrilled I joined is Women Writing the West. I attended their convention last fall. I not only touched base with a lot of writers that made me feel right at home, they widened my perspective. Sometimes, in order to know where you need to focus, you must first broaden your perspective.

Once I set aside the legal/technical writing I did as a union steward putting together grievance files, I have been a fiction writer. (Yes, some managers thought I wrote fiction, but I truly did try to be as accurate as possible without throwing my grievant to the wolves.) As much as I enjoy romance elements in my writing, I prefer women's literature, particularly in a historical setting. But--face it--basic genre romance with its "happily ever after" endings sells. Much of my writing, particularly under my pen name, Zina Abbott, is historical romance usually set in the West.

Some of the perspectives I gained at the WWW conference were these:
  • Fiction sells, but once the book had been published over six months, many readers consider it "old" and often opt for a newer release. Online sales can diminish quickly. In a book store, if the books don't sell within a few months, in most cases, they get shipped back to the publisher
  • To have slow but consistent sales, consider publishing with a company that focuses on marketing the print version of books as opposed digital sales. If a writer finds the right topic for the right niche market, their print book will not as quickly become "outdated" and end up in the bottomless pit of remainder books where authors earn nothing for their work. Quite often that means writing non-fiction books.
  • Once I am finished marketing my two self-published books, it is time for me to focus on how much time I want to spend on continuing my writing for my present publisher and if I also want to write something that can be sold to a different market.
Then there is this insight I received especially during the past three months. Love it or hate it (and I hate it), if I am going to write and self-publish historical western fiction, do so for the Kindle Unlimited (KU) market. The "why" of it is a whole other blog post. 

In my opinion, KU may be great for readers, but it has killed the fiction market when it comes to the average writer without a huge nationwide following being able to make decent money on longer, well thought out and heavily researched novels containing multiple subplots and depth. To make money on KU, it is better to stick to the shorter, formulaic pieces that can be whipped out every one to three months. 

But, I enjoy research. I enjoy giving historically correct information in my stories. I enjoy writing multifaceted novels with twists that give the readers something to think about and something to learn. I enjoy depth.

So, if I am going to accomplish MY writing goals and still make it worth my time financially, I need to FOCUS on exactly what I want to write. 

Before I do that, I need to continue to BROADEN MY PERSPECTIVE of what options are out there and what ones appeal to me.
Like everything else involved with my writing, that means I need to finish up my current writing project and then buckle down and do the RESEARCH on what my options are. General goals are nice, but details are what make it happen.

After I get my ideas and options together, then I need to plan the work so I can work the plan. That's called getting ORGANIZED.

Once I get it all organized, then I have come back to full circle to FOCUS. Don't get distracted. Don't let myself get waylaid. Don't give up.


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Sometimes you must first broaden your perspective before you narrow your FOCUS #RobynEcholsBooks @robyn_echols @ZinaAbbott

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