Report! Report!

The quest for reinvention is going pretty well so far. I’m aware that posting such a statement on the 13th day of the year is asking for trouble, not because of any specific fear of a random number, but because I’m less than two weeks into a full year reboot of my entire life and 13 days is conspicuously early to be calling anything. But it’s going ok so far. On the health front, I’ve been sticking pretty well to the meagre calorie amount afforded to me by my popular brand of calorie counting mobile application, and have even managed to rouse my carcass onto a fitness machine on a couple of occasions. The net result is that I’ve lost five pounds, even though I took ‘Saturday night is treat night’ a bit too literally this week and got fish and chips before emptying the drinks cabinet. No, we don’t actually have a drinks cabinet. Not any more, anyway. I even managed to resist free cakes being waved in front of my face today.

*fans face* I’m ok.

The wedding planning is now fully underway too, with weekly planning meetings in the diary (and you must respect the diary) and all sorts of things getting achieved. We’re wedding planning machines, albeit ones who cannot yet decide on whether to have a chocolate fountain.

I’m also really happy with the way the writing sessions are going. I’ve got scheduled sessions every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, for an hour each day. I’m not going to lie, some of those have been extremely hard to motivate myself for, but every time I’ve sat down and committed myself, I’ve gotten shit done. I’m focusing mainly on the third draft of Blood on the Motorway in January, and then it’ll be going out to beta readers. I’m on track at the moment, and increasingly feel like it’s not so dreadful that I’ll be embarrassing myself when I publish.

I had my first ‘non writing’ writing session last night, investigating some options for the promotional side of things. This mainly consisted of looking at the Bookbub website, picking a hosting service to set up a platform on, and biffling about on KBoards, the Kindle user message board that is chock full of indie authors giving each other advice and support. I posted a question there that’s been bugging me last night and already had over 30 responses, which is really pretty cool. I’ve not been a big forum user since the glory days of the Raw Nerve forum, bit I can see me getting pulled in by this one.

One of the big questions I need to answer, however, is what the hell to do with my blog. You may have noticed that my last post on here was a bit different to my usual waffle, in that it was probably the first blog post I’ve ever written that had an eye on trying to write copy that was ‘marketable.’ I figured it was a skill I need to pick up if I want to build an author platform that would drive potential readers to my books (when they’re out) or my mailing list (once I go ahead and set one up).

It was pretty dreadful, really. It took three times as long to write, and was noticed by precisely nobody. Not a single interaction, which is pretty poor. So rest assured I won’t be doing that again. What I will be doing is continuing to write whatever the bejeesus I want, whenever I bejeesusingly want to. I just need to try and work out how to apply that to the good advice I keep hearing about author platforms, most of which is ‘don’t write for writers.’

More on that, I’m sure, in due course.

Resolve and resolutions

I have, it’s fair to say, put a lot of eggs in the basket marked ‘2015’. Next year could well be the most insanely busy of my life, but if I can keep all the relevant plates in the air  I should come out of it with a dramatically improved life. I’ll be married, I’ll be healthy, and I’ll be all set to launch a business that will bring not only added funds to our finances, but provide me with a sense of purpose and artistic expression that I’ve always aspired to have. So no pressure there.

In the interests of accountability, below is a rough guide to the goals I’ve set myself for the year ahead, so that I can look back this time next year and chastise myself accordingly for failing to hit them. And weep, and curse, and do it all over again.

First; the wedding. This is the one area where I know I’m not going to fail, because the event is booked in, and there’s money down on the table already. Once there’s money down, I’m committed. Now, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do, far from it. There’s everything to do. So while I know there’s going to be a wedding next year, the question now is ‘will it be a good wedding?’ I’m hoping that it will be, and I’m fairly confident that despite our budget not rivalling the Beckhams or the Clooneys of this world, it’ll be a damn fine good time.

Second; the getting healthy. Long-time sufferers readers of this blog may well remember that a few years ago I attempted something I called the Year of Health. I even set up a website, that’s how seriously I took it. I was out of shape, unhealthy, and smoking like it was going out of fashion (which I suppose it was). For six months I actually did really well with it, and lost somewhere in the region of two and a half stone. But then a holiday happened, and the impetus left, and it fizzled away. Ever since I’ve tried the same things I did before, but without the motivation there to back it up it’s never come to anything. Now I’m even bigger than I was when I started the first time, a great big cuddly ball of potential health issues.

But next year I am getting married. Did I mention that? I have just shy of ten months in which to transform myself from the walking pudding I now so thoroughly resemble into a man who can stand proud and dashing in a well cut suit. So I’m going to be restarting the Year of Health. Note the capitalisation there. Serious.

Healthy eating, cutting out snacks and regular exercise should all do the trick, as should cutting out the wine on a school night and taking advantage of the beautiful area we live in on the weekends. It’s good for me, my partner, and our kids, and if I was found wanting on the motivation front before, I now have that big ringed day in the diary when I’m going to be photographed for the most important photograph of my life. I don’t much fancy looking like a tubby funster in it.

Lastly; there’s the writing. I’ve always dreamed of being an author. Of walking into a bookshop and seeing my books up there on the shelf, of having a trade paperback in my hands. Like 99% of people who ever have these dreams, however, they’re remained such a perpetually distant goal that I’ve never really in my heart of hearts dedicated myself to that dream. Sure, I’ve worked at it, three nights out of every fortnight while my partner is working. I’ve had the odd month off, here and there. Hell, I’ve had the odd half decade off from time to time.

It’s hard, working towards such an indefinite end goal. Life gets in the way, and the fact that you know, as a writer, that what comes at the end of all that hard work is rejection. Dozens, perhaps hundreds of rejections. You try and boost your profile by submitting short stories to magazines that get more submissions than they’ll get readers. In the end, if you get lucky, some agent will decide that you are just marketable enough for them to take a punt on, and if you’re even luckier than that, a publishing house will agree with them.

But, thanks to those evil tax dodgers over at Amazon, the landscape has shifted. Whilst they’ve been busy muscling out traditional booksellers and bending international tax law, they’ve also revolutionised the publishing industry. They introduced the Kindle and put so much money behind it that in the course of less than a decade have completely revolutionised the way that people consume their books.

They also decided to make this new digital world available to all. Anyone who wants to self-publish can, so long as they take about twenty minutes to learn how. The gatekeepers of the old print world are no longer the all-encompassing power that they once were. Of course the vast majority of authors (or wannabe authors) out there assumed that this would lead to a glut of badly written bilge being pumped into the marketplace, which might sucker in a few rubes here and there.

They were right, in part. Along with the bilge though a whole range of good writers looked at this new world and saw an opportunity. They reasoned that if they put the same effort into their books, hired professional editors and cover designers and made sure that nothing went up that that they couldn’t be proud of, they could rise above the morass of noise and make a decent fist of it.

They were right, and the publishing industry has turned on its head accordingly. Publishing companies are trying to sign up the big indie authors with an inbuilt audience and offering them print deals. Bookshops are starting to sell only big names who can guarantee sales, and new authors going the traditional route are finding their advances falling to as low as $1000 dollars, despite their months and months of submissions and hard work getting to that point.

Which was what I was readying myself to do as I worked on the second draft of my first novel, Blood on the Motorway. Having written bits and pieces and half novels and first drafts since I was a teenager, this was the first time I had something that I actually thought might have some work I can be proud enough of to consider sending it out to get rejected by every agent in the land.

Then an offhand mention in a blog of a podcast called the Self-Publishing Podcast completely upturned my thinking. I started devouring the back catalogue of these three guys who were actually making a living now by reaching the dizzy heights of the bestseller lists but by putting together solid, consistent sales. Reading books like Write, Publish, Repeat and Let’s Get Digital have only confirmed the spark that the podcast ignited.

This isn’t a gold rush, it isn’t a quick rich scheme; it’s a chance for those who want it enough, who are willing to work hard enough, and who most importantly who are good enough to get their work out there, promote it themselves and maybe, just maybe, manage to make a living at it. Gatekeepers be damned.

Once thing is for sure though, I was never going to get in that position at my current rate. While I’m hardly a lazy writer, if you’re going to treat this as a business you really need to be willing to put the hours in, and a total of six hours a fortnight is not quite going to cut it.

So as we move into the new year my approach, as with everything else above; is to put the hours in. I’ll be setting an hour a night every Monday, Wednesday and Friday (Tuesdays and Thursdays are exercise nights) and two weeks a day over the weekend. I’ve planned out the tasks I’ll need to achieve on a monthly, weekly, and even daily task list, which covers everything from finishing each individual draft of the three books I plan to launch with, to setting budgets for each project, to learning how to format right through to marketing and the tax implications of setting up a company.

I’ll need to finish Blood on the Motorway, write the sequel and then create a third book based on the idiotic Rolling Stone challenge. I need to get them edited, get covers designed and work out a thousand other details. The aim is to have it all in place by the end of this year and roll the three books out in 2016, along with a fourth book that’ll be done that year.

There's other stuff too. I want to read more, perhaps hitting the 24 books in a year target that I've always strived for. I want to do more with my weekends that doesn't involve hangovers. We might even try and move house, although that looks a little foolish given everything above.

It’s a ridiculous amount of work, it has to be said, but that’s the goal. Healthy, married, writer, in twelve months. Let’s come back before Christmas next year and see how I did. In the meantime, I hope you and yours have a lovely holiday period, however that looks for you, and thanks for taking the time to read the stupid stuff I write.

Back on the horse

So we’ve covered my loss of a kindle and gaining of a bath. Back to losing stuff today, but intentionally. I’m back on the dieting horse again, by which I don’t mean that I’ve taken up heroin as a means to achieve weight loss. That might be my next recourse, however, should my current attempt fail. I’m getting married next year, which is obviously a very good thing, but I’m very aware that should I stand in a tuxedo at my current weight, I’ll look less like a groom and more like a performing circus be. So I’m starting early on the attempt to shed a few pounds. I’ve got a year and a half, and ideally I’d like to look like I’ve been chiselled out of marble by Michelangelo by the time the wedding rolls around. At the very least I’d like to look sharp in my suit.

I’ve been down this road before. The very first time I made a properly sustained effort at losing weight, I did pretty well. Over six months I managed to transform from the sort of person you see from the neck down on obesity news reports to someone vaguely approaching slenderness, but then I blew it all by eating all of the food. It was like getting fat again was my reward for getting thin.

Since then there have been a few attempts, but my heart has never really been in it. I’d love to lose weight, but somehow the desire has never managed to overcome my fondness for eating all the food. It doesn’t help that the office block that I work in is attached to one of the largest chocolate factories in the country. I come to work every day in a building that smells of freshly baked brownies, which isn’t great when chocolate is basically your dieting Achilles heel. I have a mouth full of sweet teeth and from where I sit I can generally access free chocolate with the barest minimum of effort. You can see why it’s a challenge.

But I’m back on the horse. I’m not following any particular diet or regime, aside from the good old fashioned ‘don’t eat as much and do some exercise fattie’ regime. I’m calorie counting thanks to the marvellous free app that you can get on them there smartphones, and we’ve got a strider machine to work on.

I really hope it takes this time. I’m a week in now and it’s going pretty well so far, with the weight already starting to shift, in that way it can do in the first few weeks. Hopefully by the time the wedding comes round I’ll be like that statue.