Tag Archives: achieving goals

Another experiment with marketing, a $0.99 sale, and alcohol-induced pledging.

Happy Haloween!

I hope you’re looking forward to tonight’s festivities, but a word of warning from Australia, where we’d already been there and done that – try not to drink too much! You’ll just end up where I am now, and where you’ve probably been yourself – regretting that last glass and swearing off the alcohol forever. For once, I’m dead serious. Here’s my new pledge:

During the six months I plan to spend as a full-time writer, I will not drink at all.

I have not been drinking much since I’ve met Josh, who (unlike most Australians) doesn’t really drink. We have a glass of wine with dinner probably once or twice a month. So you can imagine how three glasses of wine from last night have ruined my day today. I’d still made it to the gym, but that was the only thing I’d managed all day – no writing yet. Needless to say, incompatible with what I am setting out to achieve.

Don’t get me wrong, it was fun! My sister managed to take a long enough break from her two little kids so that we could talk about our writing dreams. Yes, she’s a writer too, almost finished with the first draft of her YA novel. We kept drinking, talking, and laughing till just after midnight. We talked about why it feels so wrong to take half a year off work, and why it feels so absurd to attempt yet another career switch, this time to a profession where the odds of “making it” are about as good as they are in the lottery jackpot.

Then we started going through our memories and remembering when we’d “won the lottery” before. Like when I’ve announced back in Ukraine that I was going to win a scholarship to study abroad and was ridiculed by everyone for a year, until I left on a full scholarship to the US. Or when my sister said that she was going to move to Australia and even I did not believe her, until she got into the second selection round. We came up with a long list and they all had something in common – a vision, a plan, and a lot of hard work. There was also something else – not giving up, no matter how hopeless things looked. It’s all too easy to swear off dating, once you’ve been on about fifty first dates, but I got my prize, and he still makes me breakfast in bed almost every day, even after all these fifteen months…

Anyway, I still have a lot of work to do in terms of arranging such a long leave – I’ve already talked to my immediate manager, but now I have to convince his boss, who can be a tough nut. He’s back next week and I’m going to bring it up on Friday, after he’s had a chance to settle in and is less likely to shoot from the hip. Wish me luck.

Meanwhile, there’s some excitement on the marketing front – Shizzle, Inc is on sale again this weekend, and I have a Bargain Booksy promo scheduled – will update in a few days on the sales numbers. The paper version formatting is almost finished, the first draft of the paper cover is done, and I have even purchased a bar code! There will be Goodreads promotions and bugging all the local bookshops with free review copies. Also, I’m up to 14,000 words on the sequel draft.

Enjoy your candy. I’m off to add another thousand to my word pile.


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

Spreadsheets are the writer’s best friends

Well, maybe they are just this writer’s. Somehow, no matter what problem or challenge I’m facing, my first thought always turns to Excel. (Hmm, “Excel”…subliminal messaging? Or truth in advertising?)

Maybe it’s that whole idea of breaking a major problem into its component parts and tackling them one at a time. Maybe it’s tapping into the brain’s reward system, as I did last year, when watching the trend line of “actual words written” motivated me to finish the first draft of Shizzle, Inc. Or, most likely, it’s the fact that without a spreadsheet, or at least a to-do list, I would completely forget what I’m supposed to do or what I’ve already done…

Wait…what was I talking about?

To illustrate, here’s one of my “writer’s little helpers”, the word count tracking spreadsheet:

Shizzle word count log

You can see that the “actual” line is a bit jagged, and occasionally dips below the target, but all is well that ends well – and in this case I got what I wanted exactly when I wanted it – the draft was finished on the day the spreadsheet predicted that it would be.

The latest one is helping me track my progress towards landing a literary agent. Oh, I forgot to mention in my last post that in addition to everything else going wrong, my agent and I parted ways in a sort of messy divorce. So I’m back to square one in terms of plans on how to publish Shizzle, Inc. A depressing thought that only a tracking spreadsheet can fix. So here it is:

Selling Shizzle

It’s really simple. Paradoxically for a die-hard optimist, I expect to be rejected by agents. A lot. Let’s say 99 times out of 100. A simple logic would then dictate that in order to get one agent to believe into a future success of my totally rad first attempt at writing a novel, I will have to submit it to at least 100 agents.

As the spreadsheet shows, so far I’m up to 34 actual submissions. As an easy visualisation tool, the light grey shaded cells show all the agents to whom I’ve sent a query, and the more depressing dark grey ones, with strikethrough font, show the ones that sent a rejection letter or ignored me long enough to indicate a “no cigar” outcome.

So far my spreadsheets got me what I wanted, when I wanted it – 85,000 words in less than three months, and an apartment in about the same time frame. I will be very, very surprised if after 100 submissions I will not hook a single fish…er, agent. I’m not worried, though – if that happens, Miss Fix-it will make a spreadsheet on how to self-publish her “widely rejected” and “ignored by the best” debut.


Filed under Shizzle, Inc.

Right on time

Just as my progress-tracking spreadsheet predicted, I finished my novel yesterday! Okay, so it ended up being 83.5K words instead of the originally planned 90K, but I finally wrote “the end” on the exact day Excel predicted over two months ago. Talk about the power of positive thinking, or “the Secret”, or whatever name you want to give the simple fact that if you have a plan (and stick to it), you will get the result you want.

I even made a quick cover by slapping the novel name across a photo of a nameless Internet girl that looks like my protagonist. Underneath I wrote “Bestselling debut novel by Ana Spoke”. Let’s see what the Universe thinks about that!

My sister (my Perfect Reader) is reading it now and just called to say that she loves the beginning and that she’s been laughing out loud. She also has some constructive criticism, but like Scarlett, I will think about it tomorrow. For now, I will just go back to staring at the mock up cover and imagining it becoming a reality a year or so from now.

Here’s to wishful thinking!

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Filed under Shizzle, Inc.