May Reading Journal Set-Up

Is it nearly the middle of May already? Yes. Yes, it is.

Did I just finish editing and posting my May reading journal set-up video? Also, yes.

Better late than never, right?

Here’s the video if you want to check it out:

It’s short (less than four minutes)…

Since the video was late (and really short) this month, I’m adding an in-progress photo. This is the book stack list of books I’ve read this month, plus what’s currently in my TBR pocket.

So far, I’ve read three books: Legendborn by Tracy Deonn, The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake, and Never Saw You Coming by Erin Hahn. I really enjoyed them all. This month’s reading is off to an excellent start!

After those I started two different sci-fi books.

The first is the companion novel in a YA space academy duology (Supernova by Kass Morgan). I picked up the first book a while back because “space fleet academy” is one of my favorite tropes and Kass Morgan wrote The 100 (which I never read but did watch and enjoy as a television series…at least for the first few seasons).

The other sci-fi book I’m reading is book three in an adult space opera adventure (Engaging the Enemy by Elizabeth Moon). The first two books were really good, and so far, I’m really enjoying book three.

How about you? What are you reading this month?

April #MagicalReadathon and #TomeTopple TBR

April why do you have to be so full of events I want to participate in? The first few days of this month (and the last few of last month) have already been so jam packed with stuff that I’m late getting this post up. Somehow I don’t think that the pace is going to let up this month, on either the work or leisure side of the life equation.

Not only is April going to be the first Spring Equinox session of Book Roast’s Magical Readathon, but there is also going to be another round of Tome Topple, AND it’s Camp NaNoWriMo. I already had big (and I mean really big) writing plans for April, and now I have just added a boatload of reading as well.

Something is going to have to give in order for me to make that happen, but that will be a problem for me to figure out when I sit down to plan my month. Today we’re going to pretend like I have all the time in the world for ambitious reading TBRs. Ready? Let’s go.

When making my TBR for April, I started with the Magical Readathon prompts because I am super into the whole Orilium thing that Book Roast has created. In the process of picking books, I added a couple of chucky tomes (books over 500 pages) that will also allow me to participate in Tome Topple, which is happening in the second half of the month (15-28 April).

Part of me thought it might be too much to try to do both events. I considered skipping Tome Topple (again), but I have tomes that are piling up and desperately need toppling! I need the added incentive of this event to tackle those long reads. Plus, I kind of had to pick one long one for one of the Magical Readathon prompts, so there’s that, too. You’ll see what I mean when I get into the TBR, below.

Here’s what I picked out and why:

  • Paladin’s Strength by T. Kingfisher — This is my buddy read book for the month, and it also fits the prompt of “book with a trope you like” to check off my “Art of Illusion” Orilium coursework. Judging from the description, I believe this book has at least three of my favorite tropes: a fake relationship, forced proximity, and competence porn! So excited.
  • Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa — This is my “intimidating read” for my “Inscription” coursework. As I hinted at above, basically the only books I tend to think of as “intimidating” reads are the ones that are over 500 pages (aka “tomes”). Books considered “classics” and anything non-fiction can also be intimidating for me, but I don’t have any “classics” on my TBR at the moment, and I like to stick with sci-fi and fantasy reads during the Magical Readathon events. I was debating between this book and Lady Hotspur by Tessa Gratton, but ended up going with this one because I have it in both hardcover and ebook. Sometimes I’m picky about format with longer books.
  • Legendborn by Tracey Deonn — This is another tome that has been hanging around at the top of my TBR for a while. I’ve tried to fit it into my reading schedule for the last couple months and never quite got to it. Now I’m kind of glad I didn’t read it yet because it works perfectly to fulfill my “Mythology Inspired” homework for the “Lore” course. I’m don’t really have another good option for this prompt, so I’m really hoping I can manage to read two tomes this month.
  • Goldilocks by Laura Lam — This book “set in the future” was my pick for the “Psionics and Divination” coursework. But, there was a last minute change of plans this morning. Now I am pretty sure that I’m going to be changing this to Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha. My buddy read friends wanted to read that next, and it just so happens to work for this prompt, so I think I’m going to switch.
That thing on the bottom of the left-hand page is my “TBR pocket” where I’m storing all those book covers. I don’t plan to stick them onto the page until after I read them.

For those of you who are interested, I did film my reading journal set-up, but editing that is taking forever, and has been keeping me from getting this post up. So, that will be posted soon. Keep an eye on my YouTube channel if you want to watch that.

That’s all for now. I will be back very soon with my March reading wrap-up post. Until then, happy reading!

What’s On My Mini #MagicalReadathon TBR

I am very excited to be returning to the Orilium Academy for a little cram session that will determine my magical conduit and legacy!

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, go check out this playlist of videos on Book Roast’s channel.

There are two categories of reading prompts for this week-long readathon. The first set of prompts determine your magical conduit. I’m pretty set on getting a dagger, since that’s the conduit that is only available to the Mind Walkers (which is the house I was sorted into after completing the Novice Path). I also like the options that are open to everyone, but I only have seven days, so I have to be reasonable and pick only one.

The prompt for earning the dagger is to read a stand alone book. I just got The Misfit Soldier by Michael Mammay, and it just so happens to be one of the few sci-fi / fantasy stand-alone books on my Kindle. Which works out perfectly, because this was one of my most anticipated new releases of 2022, and I am super excited to read it.

The second category of reading prompts determines your magical legacy, and each house has there own set, specific to them. There are five legacy options for Mind Walkers. I eliminated the two that didn’t appeal to me right away: Psychic Plane and Multiverse. Collective consciousness and time travel are not my jam, even though the prompts for those would be super easy for me.

That left three options: Shadow Realm, Astral Plane, and Faewild Plane.

You’d think I’d go for the Faewild one, but the Fae in this world sound super scary, and I’m not sure if I’m brave enough for that one. Plus the prompt is to read a horror novel or a book with horror elements, and nope. That’s unlikely.

The Shadow Realm sounds useful, and appeals mostly because I always lean towards creating rogue-like characters. The prompt is to read a book with a dark cover, which sounds super easy.

Then again, the Astral Plane sounds like teleportation, which is probably the super power I would pick if I got to choose one. The prompt for that one is to read a book set in a different world than ours, which is basically all sci-fi and fantasy.

This is good because I still haven’t read my buddy read book for this month, Hunt the Stars by Jessie Mihalik, and I have to finish that before Sunday. Luckily, that book happens to have a reasonably dark cover, and it’s set in a world other than ours. I can’t use one book to satisfy two prompts, but I can read the book and decide after I’m done which prompt I want to use it for. So that’s my plan.

If I finish these two books quickly and I have time for a third, I want to read Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco which also works for either the Shadow Realm or the Astral Plane. If I finish it, I’ll use it to fill whichever prompt I didn’t pick for Hunt the Stars. Or maybe I’ll use it to get a second conduit. It would work for either the wand (book with branches on the cover) or the staff (book from a series).

If you’ve read any of these books, let me know what you think in the comments. And if you’re participating in the Mini-Magical Readathon, what’s on your TBR?

March 2022 Reading Journal Set-Up

We’re already several days into the month of March, but don’t worry. I didn’t forget about posting my reading journal spread. This post just took a bit longer than usual to write. You’ll see why in a bit.

I have been messing around with my friend’s Canvas lamp. (Side note: She’s awesome and you should go check out her art!). I saw an ad for the Canvas lamp (which is like a ring light that has a phone holder and clamps to your desk), and I was considering buying one when I found out that Zoe had recently received one as a gift. So she’s letting me test it out while she’s busy with other stuff. I have mixed feelings about it so far. I think I can take better photos without the lamp (the one above was taken with the lamp, then “enhanced” a bit on my phone before uploading). So if that’s all I am going to do with it, I can buy a cheaper desk lamp for my office. But…

I did play around with making a video flip-through of my reading journal set-up. You can check that out below.

It’s a little rough, but I don’t think that’s the lamp’s fault. ๐Ÿ™‚

I think I need more practice if I’m going to make more videos like this. But I’m willing to give it a few more tries. If you want me to make more set-up and/or flip-thru videos, please let me know by liking my video on YT, and/or subscribing to my channel, and/or just leaving a comment over there or on this post. If there’s enough interest, I’ll do a March wrap-up flip through and a set-up video for April where I actually film the me-doing-art part.

If you watch the video, you’ll get to hear me talking about my plans for the Mini-Magical Readathon in March. I made a few spreads to help me keep track of my reading prompts and options. I have to read a minimum of two books. One to earn my magical conduit and another to determine my legacy. I’m putting off picking books to go with the prompts until closer to the start of the event (14 March).

In addition to participating in the Mini-Magical Readathon, I have a few other reading goals for this month. I didn’t make specific pages for these in my reading journal. I am just sharing them here for accountability, and so I can remember to report back on how I did when I do my wrap-up post at the end of the month.

  • Aggressively DNF! — I really need to stop feeling guilty about not finishing books that just aren’t clicking with me. Usually, it’s not the book’s fault, which makes it even harder to just put it down and pick up something else. The problem is, if I’m forcing myself to read a book that I’m not clicking with, it takes me at least 2x as long to read it, and I risk putting myself in a slump. So, this month I’m going to be aggressive about DNFing anything that I’m not enjoying. If it’s not a “hell, yes!” then I’m setting it aside and saying “maybe later.”
  • Read at least one non-fiction book — I have a stack of non-fiction that I want to get through this year. The trick is going to be picking one that doesn’t violate my “aggressively DNF” goals.
  • Read at least 60 pages of one book from my physical TBR (then finish or DNF/donate) — This goes nicely with my “aggressively DNF” goal. I set myself a sixty page evaluation point because most of the books in my physical TBR stack are around 300 pages, and if I’m not into a book by the ~20% mark, then it’s probably not happening. I don’t need to horde books that I’m not interested in reading anymore, especially ones I got from subscription boxes. So, the goal is to pick one, read 60 pages, and decide if I want to keep going. If yes, I’ll try to finish it before the end of the month. If no, I’ll donate it, pick another, and repeat until I find something that sticks.

So that’s what I have planned for March. What are your reading plans? Are you participating in the Mini-Magical Readathon? If so, which guild did you get sorted into? Any fellow Mind Walkers out there?

Fantasy Romance Recommendation for #FaRoFeb

I just finished reading Paladin’s Grace by T. Kingfisher, and REALLY enjoyed it. I had no idea based on the cover that this was a romance, OR that it also had a mystery plot! It’s also really funny! Of course, I could have read the blurb, but this is another book that I grabbed from the library based on a podcast recommendation.

Paladin’s Grace reminded me a lot of the Lady Sherlock series, but fantasy instead of historical. And the series structure is a bit different in that it sounds like each book is going to feature a different couple. So you get an ongoing mystery plot, with a sub-mystery solved in each book that leads you to the next mystery, and you get a full HEA/HFN in each book!

I mean… Fantasy + Romance + Mystery + complete HEA/HFN in each book of a series that looks like it’s going to have at least seven total books = Yes, Please! More of this in my eyeballs right now!

Except… I need to wait because I didn’t get the next two books out of the library, yet. I also have to fill in other squares on my FaRoFeb readathon bingo board. But, I’m definitely going to be reading the rest of this series, and I definitely recommend that you check this book out if you haven’t already.

As for placement on the bingo board, I think I’m going to hold off on attaching this one because it’s the first fantasy romance I’ve finished this month, and it can fit several of these prompts. It’s secondary world, so, I could use it in the lower right corner to fill the “epic fantasy / different world” prompt. The author’s books published under this pen name are indie published, so I could also use this for the “indie author” prompt in the middle of the bottom row. And, now that I’ve had a chance to look at the detail on the cover, I can also say that I do love the cover, which is the prompt for the lower left corner of the board.

Basically, it could go anywhere in that last row. I was thinking that I would try to fill the prompts in the corners of the board so that I had two diagonal bingos. But, it really depends on if I can manage to read four fantasy romance novels this month. So, we’ll see.

Next up is going to be Midlife Bounty Hunter, as planned. I know that one will work for the “low fantasy / our world” prompt in the upper left corner. We’ll see if it also has any of my favorite tropes, or something that I love to hate (like vampires and werewolves, or alpha males…), which would fill the prompt in the middle of the first column. Not that I need middle of the row or middle of the column prompts if I’m going with my corner strategy.

Anyway… How is your FaRoFeb going? What are you reading and loving? Let me know in the comments.

Reading Fantasy Romance in February for #FaRoFeb

Happy Fantasy Romance February (aka FaRoFeb)!

To celebrate the genre that we love, there are 70 authors (myself included) participating in events and giveaways all month long! And there’s also a readathon! So if you also like fantasy romance (or romantic fantasy) stories, you should definitely check out the books and authors involved in this event. There are so many different sub-genres that fall under the fantasy romance umbrella, and a wide variety of creatures, types of magic, heat levels, and settings are represented in this group. I’ve already found several new-to-me authors to add to my TBR.

More on that TBR in a moment. First, let’s have a look at my very simple reading journal set-up for this month. I’ve selected one of the FaRoFeb readathon bingo cards for the cover page, along with a booklist to summarize what I’ve read, and that’s it.

One of these days, maybe I’ll actually attempt to measure and equally space out the lines for my booklist. That day is not today, though.

As for my TBR, similar to what I did back in December, to give myself some flexibility with my book selections, I made a sort-of reading buffet to choose from rather than creating a specific TBR stack. I already have a LOT of fantasy romance to choose from on my Kindle, and I’ll probably be adding some more this month. So, I started by going on Goodreads and scrolling through what’s on my shelves to see which ones might qualify as fantasy romance (or romantic fantasy). I ended up tagging a grouping of twenty-four books.

I’m sure all of these will fit at least one of those readathon prompts. But I’m definitely not going to have time to read all of them in February. So the first question is: where to start…

Last month, I read the first couple of chapters of Paladin’s Grace by T. Kingfisher. I set it aside for later because I was supposed to be reading something else, but I really enjoyed the bit that I read and am eager to get back to it. So I will probably start there.

I also promised my brother-in-law that I’d read Midlife Bounty Hunter by Shannon Mayer, which he read and recommended to me. I thought I would get to it over the holidays, but I didn’t. So that will probably be the next one I read. After that, who knows what I’ll pick next.

The only other one in that batch that I’m sure I’ll read is the last book in the Aurora Cycle series, Aurora’s End, because that is our buddy read book for this month. And yeah, I included it in this batch of fantasy romance even though I’m not sure how much romance there’s going to be, and it’s technically categorized as sci-fi, not fantasy. But let’s be real. The line between sci-fi and fantasy is really fuzzy, and this series features space-Fae and sentient plants. It’s a far cry from The Martian or The Calculating Stars (both of which are “science-based” or “hard” sci-fi). So let’s just call Aurora’s End a fantasy in space, okay?

I also have several non-fiction books I have already started and want to finish reading: Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals (the book that it seems like everyone is talking about right now), Black Love Matters: Real Talk on Romance, Being Seen, and Happy Ever Afters (which is a new release that I want to read this month because it combines both romance and black history), and Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America (which has been on my to-read list forever and is probably going to frustrate me, but hopefully in a very motivating way).

Definitely let me know in the comments if you’re participating in FaRoFeb this month and/or if any of these books are on your TBR! Until next time, happy reading!

2022 Reading Goals

After writing my 2021 reading wrap-up post, I nearly threw in the towel on tracking my reading at all, let alone keeping up this reading journal I’ve started. Then I took a breath and reconsidered.

For nearly three weeks…

While I was also in the middle of a massive reading slump…

I tried not to let that influence my thinking.

I’ve finally started to enjoy writing notes about the books I’m reading. Not for review purposes, but just as a way to think through how stories work and what makes them work for me, specifically. In other words, figuring out the commonalities in what I like vs. what I don’t like.

So, I’m not ditching the reading journal…yet.

But, I decided that I definitely needed a new plan for how I track my reading stats. After all those weeks of reflection, I broke down and spent an evening modifying the most basic reading spreadsheet I could find and adapting it to track only the metrics I care about.

This new approach means that I’m using three different tools (Goodreads, reading journal, and spreadsheet) instead of just two (like last year), which is not ideal. BUT each of them are going to be used for different purposes. Here’s how I’m thinking it’s going to work…

Goodreads is a pretty good database tool. Its search function is not great, but I’m not planning on building my own database of books anytime soon, and I don’t think anyone else is doing the book database thing better. That probably has something to do with Goodreads being owned by Amazon, but whatever. I don’t need to (or want to) reproduce all that info in my spreadsheet when they already did it for me. So I will continue to use Goodreads to browse book covers and other relevant info when I am trying to decide what to read next.

Then, once I decide what I want to read, I’ll enter it into my spreadsheet. When I’m done reading, I’ll mark it as read on Goodreads, write some notes in my reading journal, and repeat.

That covers my process changes, but what about reading goals? That was the topic for this post, right?

At the end of 2021, I drafted up some pretty ambitious goals for 2022. Then I proceeded to enter a reading slump and read zero books for the first half of January. Not good.

I’m reading again now. So I’m going to give it a little more time before I revise my initial 2022 reading goals. I mean, goals are just goals. They’re meant to point you in a direction. You don’t have to necessarily achieve them. You are allowed to change your mind about your desired destination along the way.

When I drew that table on the left-hand page, I assumed I would be using it to tally up reading stats. I just wasn’t sure what stats I wanted to track, so I only made one column for number of books read each month. Since I decided to go the spreadsheet route, I’m going to leave that space blank and use it to write notes on my reading mood and/or trends for the month and/or my favorite book I read that month. TBD.

The right-hand page is where I really went big. Not only did I give myself more goals than last year, I also made myself a little TBR pocket. With sideways evergreen trees. Do you think that maybe I should have taken that as a sign that this was probably a bad idea? Can I hear you saying “uh oh… what was she thinking?”

Let’s break it down.

The first two goals aren’t bad. They are the same ones that I gave myself last year and that I give myself pretty much every year. Specifically:

  • Read at least 52 books
  • Read at least 12 books by Black authors, at least 12 books by non-Black authors of color, and at least 12 books by queer authors (or featuring a POV queer character with positive representation).

The problem is that I decided to add a few reading projects to challenge myself a bit:

  • Read at least five indie-published books, and ideally not all by the same author — this goal is somewhat associated with Fantasy Romance February which I’m participating in this year.
  • Read at least six non-fiction books about anti-racism and/or social justice — this is a continuation of the goals I set for myself after reading Me and White Supremacy last year.
  • Read (or DNF and donate) at least three books from my unread physical TBR — my unread stack of paperbacks and hardcovers is getting too big, and I’m not buying any more bookcases.

At the moment, this seems like too many challenges, but I’m not going to give up yet. I’m planning on revisiting this list in a few months. I’ll see how I’m feeling about it then and recalibrate as necessary. This first quarter is particularly challenging for me because I have a lot of writing and publishing stuff that I’m focused on. Reading is taking a bit of a back seat. It’s probably not going to be like that all year, though. This may seem a lot more do-able by the end of March.

I have, at this point, finished at least one book this month. And I finally finished this post! Even better, I feel like I’m back in the reading groove. So I’ll have something to talk about in my January wrap up! Hooray!

Unfortunately, it’s nearly time to set up my reading journal for February…

I really hope your year in reading is off to a better start than mine!

Until next time, happy reading!

Setting up January 2022 in my Reading Journal

Would you believe me if I told you that this spread was shaping up to be a hot mess before it ultimately ended up becoming something I don’t hate?

There is a lesson for the New Year somewhere in here, I think… But somehow I managed to take some leftover wrapping paper scraps and a bunch of miscellaneous stickers and create a nature inspired cover page for the first month of the New Year. #FeelingCrafty

Wondering what’s in the reading pocket for this month? Placeholders, mostly. I’m still finishing my last read of 2021. Tomorrow I’ll decide what I feel like reading next.

Happy New Year! Hope your first read of 2022 is a five star favorite! ๐Ÿ’–

Setting up my reading journal for the New Year

We’ve been having a week of cold and stormy weather where I live. So I’ve been home, hanging out by the fire, and working on setting up my reading journal for 2022.

Despite my ongoing love/hate relationship with my reading journal, I’ve decided to continue using it next year. Some of that decision has to do with the fact that I’ve only filled half the pages in this notebook. But also, I am starting to prefer tracking my reading in my journal to tracking it on Goodreads. Plus, I think I’ve finally figured out how I want to use it to track notes about the books I’ve read.

So, keep scrolling if you want to see how I’ve set things up for 2022 and what I’ve kept and changed from last year’s set up.

2022 Reading cover page with a stack of books

I don’t like the placement of that quill and ink bottle sticker on my cover page, but other than that I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. Like this year, the Tombow marker color I used for the genre is marked on the book spine, and I’ll be using this color coding when I draw in books on the book case in the following spread.

Books Read in 2022 with three empty bookshelves

I liked the year overview bookshelf that I did this year, so I decided to do it again. I only made a few changes. The stripes of black that serve as the base of the shelves are a bit wider this time, and I wrote the month under where I’m going to draw in the books instead of above. Also, I figured out that one of the rectangles on the ruler / stencil combo that I have is the perfect size to use as a book spine. I doodled some in on the May / June shelf just to test it out, and then I added a sticker for decoration.

2022 Reading Stats table with one line per month to fill in total books read and other relevant stats about my reading, and list of 2022 Reading Goals.

I haven’t quite finished this spread, yet. I’m still working on what data I actually want to keep track of (aside from number of books read). This year I kept track of things like book format, age category, and books written by BIPOC and/or LGBTQIA+ authors. I will probably do something similar in 2022, but I’m going to wait until I have my reading goals sorted out before I draw in any more columns. For example, what’s the point of tracking what format I read in (ebook vs. print vs. audio) or where the book comes from (owned vs. library vs. gift) if I don’t have a reading goal associated with that data? I mean, it’s interesting information. But maybe I can just make a note of that on the page of book notes and not track it here? I don’t know.

2022 Read Harder Challenge from Book Riot printed out and pasted into my journal

I’ve always enjoyed Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge. I’ve participated on and off every year since the first one. But in 2021 I pretty much ignored the challenge completely. I put the prompts into my reading journal at the start of the year, just in case I changed my mind part way through and decided I wanted to participate. But I’m pretty sure I didn’t do any of them, even accidentally.

I’m putting the prompts in again for 2022, but this time, after looking over the prompts, I think I may end up participating at least a little bit. And maybe on purpose? We’ll see. I do think it’s a great list of prompts if you’re looking to diversify your reading (which is always one of my reading goals).

I love all the read a genre book by a BIPOC and/or LQBTQIA+ prompts, especially the “read a book in any genre by a POC thatโ€™s about joy and not trauma” prompt. Possibly my favorite of the prompts for 2022 is “read a romance where at least one of the protagonists is over 40.” My least favorite of the prompts is definitely “read an award-winning book from the year you were born,” because I think it’s going to be very hard for me to find a book I’m excited about reading that fits that prompt.

Aside from casual participation in the Read Harder Challenge, I don’t plan on doing any other official reading challenges, and I am not making a “22 books to read in 2022” list because that was an utter fail this year. I think I read maybe three of the books I put on that list?

I do have a couple of reading projects that I’ve set for myself. The first is a re-read of all the novels and novellas that I’ve published to date in my Modern Fae series. I want to complete this in January, if possible, before I dive into developmental edits on book five. So I made this spread to track my reading progress.

The Great Modern Fae Re-Read with cover images of the four novels and four novellas published to date and a check box next to each.

I also have a selection of writing books and a short list of non-fiction books on anti-racist and social justice topics that I want to read in 2022. Those are going to be incorporated into my goals, I think. I may also make a spread to track them. Other than that, I’m going to continue to resist the urge to make TBRs in 2022. Instead, I’m going to try to follow my reading whims where they lead.

I have one more book (maybe two?) that I want to try to finish before the end of 2021. Then I can do my December wrap-up and my 2021 reading stats posts. I also need to set up my cover page for January, once I decide what sort of cover image I want. And finish my 2022 reading goals. So stay tuned for more reading journal posts, coming soon.

And if you want to join in my Modern Fae re-read, I’m starting with Eve of the Fae on the first of January, and I’ll be posting progress over on Instagram.

In the meantime, do you have a reading journal or are you starting one for 2022? Are you setting any reading goals for 2022? Are you participating in any challenges or setting any reading projects for yourself? Let me know in the comments.

Writing Process Insights From NaNoWriMo

We’re just about halfway through December, and I am still working on finishing up the first draft of the novel I was working on for NaNoWriMo. I’m down to the final two chapters, and I’m dragging my feet about finishing them. Seemed like a good time to recap what I learned from this year’s NaNoWriMo.

I’m breaking this post into three parts. Part one includes the new things I tried to incorporate into my writing process in November that worked better than I thought they would. Part two is the stuff that did not work as well as I thought it would. And part three are the things I have carried over into December.

Things I tried this month that worked better than I expected

  • At least one sprint “first thing” in the morning — This was possibly the one thing that worked best for me and made me the most productive. By “first thing” I don’t mean that I got up at 5am to write. I’m not naturally a morning writer, and the 5am writers’ club has never really worked for me, even when I worked full time. I can exercise early in the morning, but it takes a while for my brain to wake up. This month, I decided to let myself wake up at a normal time for me. I ate my breakfast and drank my tea like I usually do. But instead of letting the morning get away from me, I tried to get into my office to write at least one sprint by 9am. I didn’t always succeed, but the days that I did, it was so much better. At some point, I realized that the longer I wait to write during the day the harder it is for me to sit my butt down and get it done. The resistance builds to the point where I start to think “meh, I’ll just do more tomorrow.” But if I write for even just thirty minutes right after breakfast, even if I ignore my project for the rest of the day, it’s so much easier to go back to it in the evening and finish my sprints. I have no idea why this works, but it does, and it’s become my new thing.
  • Alarm on my phone — I set an alarm for weekdays at 9am to remind me to get my butt out to my office and get to work. This allowed me to relax a bit more while I ate breakfast, checked my email, read, or listened to a podcast. I knew I could rely on my alarm to remind me to get to work (more so than a calendar reminder, which did NOT work).
  • Reprioritizing my “to-do” list — This goes along with writing “first thing” in the morning. Normally, I have all these little tasks that fill up my to-do list that I think are only going to take a few minutes and end up taking an hour or more. Since I like the satisfaction of checking things off my list, I do them first, even though I know I shouldn’t. Giving myself permission to basically ignore all that until December (or at least until I got my writing done for the day) was magic. All of a sudden I was doing what was important to me first instead of doing a bunch of admin stuff that was not time sensitive. And, I still got the satisfaction of checking things off my list because of the next two items.
  • Sprint log — I have never used one of these before, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to use it, but I thought I’d give it a try. It turns out that I found it super motivating to have a place to jot down my word count after each sprint! I don’t even care what the number was. Just the act of being able to write it down (and color in the box on my sprint summary log), gave me that boost of “yay! I did a thing! Let’s do it again!”
  • Word count progress chart — When I set this up, I thought maybe this was overkill, but I ended up really liking the visual progress tracker aspect of being able to color in boxes for each 1k words written. The stuff in the middle was a little redundant and unnecessary, but the progress chart was really helpful.
  • Limiting social media and other online distractions — I do this by using the digital health controls on my phone and allowing myself only five minutes (each) on Instagram and Twitter. Those are the only two social apps on my phone. I don’t log into any social apps on the computer in my office. Limiting the amount of time I could spend on an app made it so that I knew I could check it whenever, but I couldn’t get lost in the infinite scroll. Once my five minutes were up, they were gone for the day and it was time to get to work.

Things I tried that didn’t really work for me

  • Scheduling time to write on Google calendar — I thought this was going to help, but I didn’t even look at these time blocks once during the month. This method of time management just does not work for me.
  • Having consistent rules about what distractions were allowed and when they were allowed — I had this idea that I was going to outlaw all social media and gaming until after my writing was done for the day. That didn’t really work. I found that I was much more productive when I allowed myself to play some MtG Arena, or watch a YouTube video (or three), or even watch a full episode of a serial between writing sprints. Sure it delayed how long it took me to get my writing done for the day, but it also made it so that I never really felt like my creative well was going dry. This refueling became especially important on some of those days leading up to 50k when I only had to do two thirty minute writing sprints, but I was already pretty drained from writing so much in such a short amount of time. Honestly, this is the least burnt out I’ve felt after a NaNoWriMo, and I think that flexing this rule is why.
  • Crockpot meals — This one surprised me. I love crockpot meals. But unless the recipe was just “dump these four ingredients into the crockpot and turn it on,” preparing a crockpot meal used up valuable morning hours just to free up less valuable pre-dinner hours. Since getting out to my office and getting at least one sprint in turned out to be the most important thing I needed to do each day in order to get my writing done, I realized it was a lot easier to pick recipes that allowed me to do all the cooking in the evening.
  • Any cooking that required a lot of steps or prep — This one I underestimated. I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal, but we have this one recipe that we eat all the time, and it’s pretty easy to prepare, but it involves a LOT of vegetable prep time. I had already purchased the veggies and they were going to rot if I didn’t use them, so I went ahead with my meal plan. But, after that first week, I decided that this recipe is not for NaNoWriMo, or at least not for days when I need to get a LOT of writing done.

What I’m doing for December (since I’m still finishing this draft)

I’m still using my spreadsheet to manage and tweak my daily word count goals, but I’ve combined what I think were the most useful and motivating parts of my various trackers into one layout. I’ve got the progress bar on the outside like last time, but this time I moved the daily word count and sprint tracker to the inside. The calendar is a Midori blank calendar sticker. The little unicorn sticker is from Procrastiplanner. The little arrows were supposed to mark reward milestones, but I decided not to do rewards this month. Each day, I’m putting my daily word count above the little line in the calendar box, and putting stars for sprints below the line. One star is equal to one sprint, or thirty minutes of writing.

I’m still using the sprint log to jot down when I’m writing and how many words I wrote in my thirty minute sprints. It’s become a bit less important now that I’m really only trying to get two sprints in per day instead of three or more like I was doing during NaNoWriMo. For that reason, I’m not sure if I’ll keep using this outside of periods like NaNoWriMo where I’m making a focused push to fast draft a first draft.

As you can see from the picture, I’ve changed quite a bit of the pre-printed tracker from Sarra Cannon’s NaNoWriMo Prep workbook. I’ve adapted it to fit better with what I actually want to track. Specifically, what time did I start the sprint, how many words did I write, and what’s my new total word count. If I decide to use a sprint tracker again, I’ll probably just make my own and either draw it directly into my notebook or make something that will fit the page better when I paste it in. That way I don’t have to keep cutting out headers and Frankensteining together the cut up bits of the original tracker.

I have big writing plans for next year that include a lot more fast drafting, but I’ll talk about that more when I do a post on 2022 goals. So we’ll see how much of this new process stuff sticks in the New Year. In the meantime, let me know in the comments how your NaNoWriMo went. Did you learn anything new about what does and doesn’t work for your writing process?