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?

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. 🙂

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?

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?

NaNoWriMo Update With BuJo Word Count Tracker

It is day four of NaNoWriMo, and so far the month is off to a great start. I decided to work on completing the first draft of a project that I had already written over 11k words on. I guess that makes me a NaNo Rebel this year. But, my first drafts are always at least 60k words. So I think this starting early strategy is going to be a really good thing for me. Instead of reaching the end of the month (and of the challenge) but not getting to write “the end” on my draft, this year I may actually hit 50k words written in the month AND get to the end.

I promised in one of my NaNo Prep posts to post an update with photos of the final version of my bullet journal word count tracker. So, let me show you how that turned out and how I’m using it.

The progress bar around the outside shows my progress toward the 50k word goal. I marked each 10k milestone with a sparkle star to remind me that reaching that point qualifies me for one of my rewards. The boxes inside that progress bar (one for each day of the month) are divided in half. I debated what I wanted to put in those. I ultimately decided to go ahead with putting the total words written that day on the top and the total words in the project on the bottom. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it that way because my total words in the project are not going to align with that 50k progress bar (because I started early). But, I decided that didn’t matter since I’m keeping track of the math in my spreadsheet. I didn’t need to do it here, too.

I also created a rewards plan, and a more detailed word count log on a separate spread.

I struggled to come up with rewards and ended up with a mix of new movies / shows I want to watch and fun stuff I want to purchase. I’m rewarding myself for hitting my daily word count with Magic the Gathering Arena, YouTube, and re-watches of favorite movies and/or shows. But there are several new movies and shows coming out in November and December that I’m really looking forward to watching. So, I decided to use those for three of the goals. The release timing worked out to have two movies as rewards for 10k and 30k, while saving the big Wheel of Time series watch until after I’m totally done with NaNoWriMo).

I filled in the other two slots with minor purchases of fun and frivolous stuff. I went with $20 as my wish list spending limit because it’s the reward for hitting 20k words. And I decided on four stickers for the 40k word reward so it would be like one for every 10k words. Neither of these are things I would probably just buy anyway because neither of them are things I really need. I mean, I already have a TON of stickers. But it would be nice to get some new ones for my 2022 BuJo and for my 2022 writing goals planner, which I will probably start setting up in December.

I just hit the 10k words milestone this morning, so technically, I could go watch that movie now. But I’m going to wait until I after I do a few more sprints and hit my daily word count goal.

Speaking of sprints, I added a sprint tracker to my word count log so that I could mark off progress throughout the day. I’m keeping track of my actual word count per sprint on a loose sheet of paper. I may decide to glue that into my planner at some point, but for now I’m keeping it separate. I decided that my daily minimum was going to be three thirty minute sprints. I would need more than that for the first two weeks in order to hit my reverse word count goals. But, if I was really just not feeling it after three thirty minute sprints, I was going to let myself call it a day.

The first two days were great. Day three was a little tough, and today got off to a little bit of a rough start. But, very little of the that had to do with the writing. Plus, once I got going, hitting that 10k milestone gave me a boost of added motivation. Also, I’m in the middle of a big dialogue scene with lots of conflict, and I’m building to this twist that I am really excited about, so that all helps.

If you’re also participating in NaNoWriMo, I hope your writing is also going well! I’ll try to post another update mid-month. In the meantime, happy writing and/or reading!

NaNoWriMo Prep: Organize Your Life

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I’m a total planner geek. So, bust out your bullet journal or planner and let’s make our NaNo Prep checklist!

As a reminder, the schedule for NaNoWriMo prep is as follows:

  1. Develop a Story Idea (September 12-18) — Click Here to Read This Post
  2. Create Complex Characters (September 19-25) — Click Here to Read This Post
  3. Construct a Detailed Plot or Outline (September 26 – October 2) — Click Here to Read This Post
  4. Build a Strong World (October 3-7) — Click Here to Read This Post
  5. Organize Your Life for Writing! (October 10-16) <— You Are Here
  6. Find and Manage Your Time (October 18-24)

When it comes time to get organized for writing, I start by making a series of lists.

For the first list, I turn to a fresh, blank page in my bullet journal and title it something like “Task/Project Brain Dump.” Then I make a list of all the chores and tasks and other administrative stuff that I know I’m going to have to deal with between now and the end of November. These are things like planning meals, grocery shopping, paying bills, feeding my sourdough starter, cleaning the house, and finishing all the various home improvement projects that are currently important but not urgent but may become urgent before the end of November.

I try to capture everything I can think of in that one place. Sometimes this means going and checking my email for things I’ve snoozed that are going to pop up with a reminder (subscriptions to renew or cancel, emails I need to reply to, events I said I’d schedule and need to follow up on, etc.). One thing I know from experience that always comes up and causes a huge distraction and potential time suck during November is holiday gift planning. So that goes on the list as well.

Once I have my list, I start going through it to see what can be done early (now) and what can be delayed until after November. For example, I may have to wait to clean the house closer to when my guests are arriving, but I can make a meal plan and stock up on groceries now so I don’t have to go shopping as often in November. Similarly, I can come up with a plan for gift giving and/or holiday cards that does not require me spending days researching the perfect book to give each of my niblings when I should be writing. (Yes, I am the aunt who gives books for holidays and birthdays.)

The trick here is that I have to keep in mind that some tasks that I decide really need to be done later (like gift buying, because deals!), are absolutely going to take longer than I think they are going to take, and they have the potential to make me completely lose a day of writing. When the middle of November rolls around, and I’m convinced that everything I’m writing is garbage and words are hard, book browsing is going to be much more fun than book writing, and there goes my word count. This totally happens every year, so I try to keep that in mind and keep those sorts of distractions to a minimum by getting as much done early as possible.

One resource for getting organized that I used last year and am using again this year is Sarra Cannon’s excellent Preptober workbook. It has tips for meal planning as well as worksheets to help you calculate how much writing time you should plan for each day (which I’ll talk more about in next week’s post). I definitely recommend checking out this video which walks you through all of it over on her Heart Breathings YouTube channel.

In addition to my tasks and projects list, I also have a list dedicated to the NaNo Prep tasks that I want to try to complete before I start writing. This year’s list looks like this:

Strategic post-it pad placement to cover up the story-specific tasks.

The third list I make is for my writing rewards. I usually have two types of rewards. The first type is either a “you can’t do X until you get Y words written” or a “you can do Z after you’ve hit your daily word count goal” type of goal. Usually it’s a combination of the two that’s geared toward trying to trick myself into getting my words for the day written and complete as early as possible in the day. The second type is the more traditional (and usually bigger) milestone rewards which I usually assign for 10k, 25k, 40k, and 50k words written, plus “first draft done” which is usually around 60-70k for me.

For the first type of reward, I basically go into what I (who don’t have kids) think of as “parent mode” and come up with a set of daily rules to live by that encourage me to prioritize my writing. For example: “you can’t watch any YouTube videos until after you’ve written 500 words.” The key here is figuring out what carrots are going to be the sweetest (metaphorically) when it comes time to write and using those as the incentive.

In the past, I tried using reading time as an incentive, but I eventually realized that doesn’t work for me. It basically ends in me both not writing and not reading. I just find other (admin/chore) things to do that feed my need to procrastinate, then I (at best) squeeze in my word count at the last possible minute of the day and have no time left for what was supposed to be my fun reward. This may be because reading (for me) is more of a relaxing escape from the world than it is an activity that I’m going to be frustrated by not being able to do (unless I’m in the middle of a fast paced book, but those don’t last long enough to work as rewards for a 30-day writing challenge).

Instead, it seems to work better if I use things like social media, YouTube, and casual gaming as a reward because those are the things that I usually don’t want to delay until later. I want to do them when I want to do them. So, if I have to get some number of words in first, I am much more likely to stop procrastinating and make that happen. This means that my rules usually look more like:

  • No Twitter or Instagram until after I’ve met my daily word count goal. (I usually just log out of Facebook completely whenever I’m trying to focus on writing because it almost never “sparks joy” and almost always leads to pointless negative feelings and/or frustrated rage at humanity, and who has time for that, really?)
  • I can watch one YouTube video or play one Magic the Gathering Arena game for every 500 words I write, then I can watch as many videos or play as many games as I want after I’ve hit my daily word count goal.

The second type of goal (milestone rewards) are a lot harder for me. I hesitate to use buying things as a reward for writing words. Similarly, I’m reluctant to use food as a reward. That makes it really hard to come up with good milestone rewards. Usually I just make it up as I go along, or completely neglect this step of my writing prep process. But rewards are important, so I am determined to do better. Right now, I’m on the hunt for good ideas for milestone rewards. If you have any, please let me know in the comments.

All of these lists and rules are a really important part of my planning process, but my favorite part of getting organized to write is setting up my Scrivener file. If I haven’t created it already (back when I was working on plot or character, for example), then I save a new file using a Scrivener template I’ve created that aligns with the beat sheet I talked about back in the post on plotting. This file has descriptions of each beat in the notes section of each chapter. It also has target word counts for each scene/chapter that tally up to my target total word count. Once I’ve saved a copy, I load it up with all the character and world and plot stuff that I’ve been working on, copying over and organizing things based on the notes I made in my notebook.

I can easily lose hours on setting up Scrivener, but having a template with beats and word count targets already set up makes it so much faster to get going. So even if everything isn’t copied over from my notebook perfectly before the first of November, I have the bare bones of what I need to get started writing. This is good because making these lists reminded me how much more I have to do before NaNoWriMo starts. In just over two weeks! Yikes! This month is flying by, and my to-do list has just doubled in size. Time to get back to work. Happy planning!

October Reading Journal Set-Up

I really leaned into the spooky season vibes with my reading journal set-up for October.

I love the way this turned out. I ended up using this video from Draw So Cute to make the haunted house and this video from Amanda Rach Lee to do the font for “October.” Then I added my usual book list summary to the facing page, and that’s it. Reading journal set-up done.

I’m not expecting this to be a big reading month for me. I know I say that almost every month, but it’s going to be hard to find time for reading this month and next month, because of NaNoWriMo. However, I’ve already committed to a buddy read of Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir and there is going to be another round of Tome Topple at the end of the month. So, I’ve been thinking about maybe trying to squeeze in time to read one tome during the final two weeks of October.

If I do decide to participate in Tome Topple, I’ve picked out a few tomes that are calling to me. Then I split them into two options. I’ll pick one or the other (or neither) depending on how I’m feeling when the readathon starts.

The first option for this round will be to read one (or more) of these books:

  • The Phoenix Empress by K. Arsenault Rivera — This is the sequel to The Tiger’s Daughter, which I really liked. I put this book (and the third/final book in the trilogy) on my “21 for 2021” reading list at the start of this year. I haven’t made a ton of progress on that list, and there are only three months left in the year, so I think I better get moving on that.
  • The Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa — This is a much anticipated read for me. Also, I have it on ebook and in print, so if I’m craving a paper book, I can read this, and still be able to switch to Kindle if I’m reading before bed.
  • Legendborn by Tracy Deonn — This book has been at the top of my TBR for a while. I had hoped to get to read it for one of the prompts in the Magical Readathon last month, but I ran out of time. If I only have time for one book during this round of Tome Topple, this one is probably going to be it.

Option two for this round will be to read the remaining books in the Throne of Glass series, starting with Empire of Storms, which is where I left off when I abandoned this series back in 2015. Once upon a time, I really loved this series, but I kind of grew out of it and now I’m not sure if it’s even worth finishing. BUT I did put all three of these on my “21 for 2021” list. So, maybe? It’s been so long that I’m going to need to read several recaps in order to remind myself what happened leading up to book five.

What’s on your October TBR? Are you planning on participating in Tome Topple? Are you feeling the spooky fall vibes? Let me know in the comments. Happy reading!

January 2020 Bullet Journal Set-Up

And now a break from the reading summaries, stats, and updates to share my bullet journal spreads for 2020. Unlike most, I don’t bother starting a new notebook at the start of a new year. If I still have pages left in my current notebook, I just keep going.

Before diving into my 2020 spreads, I used almost ten pages planning my 2020 writing schedule and goals which I’m not showing here. In general, I laid out a future log for the entire year, four months to a page, divided horizontally so I had space for mini calendars on the left and notes on the right in each box. Then I used pencil (not normal for me) to start putting in rough plans for what writing project(s) I wanted to be working on each month.

In addition to that, I came up with two major writing goals for the year. One is a revenue goal and the other is to “build my backlist.” After that, I made sure my Q1 goals and projects tied to my 2020, and that’s it. All that’s left is to set up some sort of Kanban board to track my tasks associated with those project and make sure it all gets done. With that more or less set up, I moved on to my reading goals for 2020.

I’m keeping it pretty simple with this two page spread. On the left side, I can keep track of new books that I want to put on hold at the library (or add to my wishlist). There’s an 8×8 box for each month, and I’m writing the release date and title in each box for the books I’m excited about. On the right side, I’ve listed my reading goals for the year (which I’m going to talk about more in a separate post). Then I’m using the bottom half of the page as a tracker for the books I’ve purchased to make sure I’m buying and reading books rather than buying and hoarding them.

Next up is my month at a glance. I like the traditional line-a-day view for this. I’m putting my regular life events on the left side and my writing business stuff on the right side. I also have a little habit tracker on the left side for the four habits I’m tracking in January (vitamin, meditation, cardio, and stretching).

The right hand side also has a mini habit tracker because I have a goal of writing 1000 words every day in January. They can be in any of the three Modern Fae projects I’m currently working on, but blog posts and outlining and brainstorming don’t count. It has to be part of a story scene, even if I eventually end up cutting it from the finished product. Ultimately, I want to see if I can keep this up all year, but I’m going to take it one month at a time so I don’t get overwhelmed by my ambition.

On the next page, I have a big blank page for capturing what I read that month and any favorites from my “culture consumed” (like podcasts, music, movies, tv shows, etc.). I’m not sure exactly what this will end up looking like, but I’m intending to try to make it a bit of a collage. I’m thinking of printing out mini book covers to paste in, or maybe doodling the covers of the books I’ve read. I’ll probably add ticket stubs from movies, if I go to any. I’m leaving plenty of space to be creative and have a bit of fun.

I’m also trying something new this month. I’ve never done a mood tracker before. I thought it might be helpful to be able to visually compare my mood to my movement, so I came up with the idea for this chart.

The days of the month are across the bottom. Number of steps are on the vertical axis alongside a very basic mood scale from “no good very bad day” to “everything is awesome” with “meh” in the middle. I’m using some symbols to track what kind of movement I’m doing for my daily cardio (for me this means at least 30 minutes of continuous movement). I’m really curious to see how this turns out.

One of the reasons I wanted to try a mood tracker this month is because I’m not great at being mindful about how I’m feeling. I’m hoping this will force me to stop and think about it at least once a day. I suspect I’ll feel better on days I move more, but who knows. Maybe I won’t. It will be interesting to find out.

The final new thing I’m trying this month is this reference page just before I start my daily pages where I can do some meal planning and write down admin tasks that need to get done but that I don’t want to add to my daily log for whatever reason.

I have these little post it flags that happen to be almost exactly 3×10 squares. So, I made a week and then started writing some of our regular meals on the flags. This way I can move them around and re-use them throughout the month. The lime colored ones will be crockpot recipes and the blue ones will be for everything else. That way if I know I need a crockpot recipe on a certain day (because I won’t be home until late, for example), I can see at a glance that I’ve got myself covered. I’m hoping this will also help me stay on top of groceries for the week.

And that’s it. That’s my set up for January. I don’t like using weekly spreads. I keep trying them and then hating them for a variety of reasons. I like the flexibility and the focus of daily logs. So, that’s what I’m sticking with for January. I definitely lean more towards the traditional bullet journal method rather than the “instagram friendly” bullet journaling that gets featured a lot on YouTube and elsewhere. But, if you like this sort of thing, let me know in the comments, and maybe I’ll do more posts like this.

Top Five Wednesday: reading goals for 2019 (#T5W)

Happy New Year, everyone! I took a little time off over the holiday to rest and recharge. I read a bunch of good books and had fun times with family and friends. Now I’m ready to start 2019! I hope you all had a happy New Year and a fun and relaxing holiday, too!

Today’s Top 5 Wednesday theme is “2019 reading resolutions.” I was planning to post my 2018 reading summary before I did my reading resolutions, but I didn’t get that done yesterday. So, we’re going to do this a bit out of order. Today you’ll get my 2019 reading goals, and later this week I’ll post my December reading summary and 2018 reading stats.

Oh! And Powell’s posted their staff Top 5 lists! So, my summary post is in progress. I’ve already crunched the numbers and reserved the entire list at my library. Spoiler: there are a LOT of good books that weren’t on my radar. In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out last year’s post.

As for my “2019 reading resolutions,” I’m not really a fan of making “resolutions,” but I’ve definitely have some reading goals for 2019 (as I do every year). I never thought this was an odd thing to do until last week when I was talking with friends and they all looked at me funny when I asked about their reading goals for 2019. Apparently, not all avid readers make reading goals. Who knew?

My reading goals are pretty much the same every year: read at least 50 books (about a book a week, on average) and try to read diversely (books by AOC, different genres and age ranges, books by or about folks with different experiences than me, etc.). This year I’m adding a few other goals to that list, and not just because I wanted to round it up to make a “top five” list, I swear. I actually had a few more goals than the ones listed here, but I trimmed things back to keep focused, reduce overlap, and limit myself to only five.

Here are my reading goals for 2019:

  1. Read an average of a book a week for a total of 52 books read in 2019. — I’m increasing my usual goal by two books to make it an actual average of a book a week. I almost always exceed this goal, so adding two more books shouldn’t be an issue.
  2. Create one page in my bullet journal for every book I read, once I start reading it, to write down thoughts and notes about that book. — I’ve stopped writing reviews on Goodreads and only leave star ratings these days. On my blog, I only mention high-level thoughts in my monthly reading recap posts. Mostly, this is because I know how much work goes into writing a book, and I’m not interested in dissecting that work in public. I do think it’s useful to read critically and make notes about what I enjoyed, what I didn’t, and why, as well as what I learned (from a craft perspective, if I’m reading fiction). So, at the end of last year, I started capturing these thoughts in my notebook. The added benefit is that it’s much easier to reference these notes.
  3. Attempt to complete all the 2019 Read Harder tasks and try to do it using books that are already in my TBR (physical or virtual) wherever possible. — This one is sort of two goals wrapped in one. I don’t have any specific reading diversity goals I’m trying to hit this year, and I liked the ones on the Read Harder challenge because there were plenty that represent new areas of reading for me. But, I also have over 100 books unread on my Kindle, plus an entire shelf of unread print books on my bookcase. So, before I go running out to reserve a book at the library to cover one of these tasks, I’m going to see if I have any purchased and unread books that I could read to check off a task, instead.
  4. Read more indie published books. — When I decided to self-publish my Modern Fae series, I hadn’t read a lot of indie-published books, but I had talked with a lot of indie-published authors and watched a lot of indie-authors talk about publishing on YouTube and at RWA events and conferences. This year, I’d like to try to expand my reading beyond the mainstream popular traditional published stuff and read more books by indie-authors. Coincidentally, this is also a task on the 2019 Read Harder challenge.
  5. Read more books that I own than the amount that I buy for myself. — This is one I’ve been working on for the past few years. You’ll see when I post my 2018 reading stats that I did a great job of buying fewer books this year. The problem is, I read a LOT from the library this year. So, net effect is that I added books to my “purchased and unread” books. This year, I want to try to keep the number of books on that list at neutral, or hopefully reduce it. My plan is to only buy books if I can’t get them from the library *and* I plan to read them immediately.

All this requires tracking, so I’ve added some new spreads in my bullet journal. This first one I’ve already added to a previous post. I’m using this to track new releases and the Read Harder tasks.

I added another to remind me of all the awesome books on my shelf and my Kindle that I keep forgetting to read in place of the new shiny stuff. That list on the far right are the books I currently have on digital hold at the library. There’s no way I’m getting to all these this year. Too many books, not enough time…

I also mentioned in a previous post that I’ve been frustrated with how many places I’m tracking what I’m reading. This year, I’ve decided to narrow things down as much as possible. I’m going to use Goodreads to keep track of what books I have in progress and/or checked out from the library. I’ll update Goodreads when I start a new book or when I finish a book. All day to day tracking and book notes are going in my bullet journal. And, I’ve decided to keep using a spreadsheet (I like this one from Book Riot) to keep a list of books and related details about those books because it makes it easier for me to run my reading stats at the end of the year. But, I’m probably only going to update it once a month or so because I only check my stats every six months. That should take some of the pressure off.

That’s the plan, and I’m pretty excited about it. So, how about you? Do you have reading goals or resolutions? Do you track your reading stats in a spreadsheet like the one from Book Riot? Tell me about it in the comments.

Happy New Year! Wishing you all the best for 2019!

Bullet Journal Set-Up for NaNoWriMo 2018

It’s time. I finally set up my November month at a glance and NaNoWriMo tracker.

This month I’m going minimalist as possible. Only five habits to track, chosen for what I think will keep me healthy and sane while I shift my focus more fully to writing. In terms of health and fitness, my habit goal is to hit my step count every day, try to eat fewer calories than I burn, and shoot for getting at least 45 minutes of continuous movement each day. In terms of mental well-being, my habit goal is at least 5 minutes of meditation and at least 30 minutes of reading for fun. That frees me up to focus the rest of the day on writing. Woo hoo!

This is the first year that I’m not working full time in addition to trying to hit my NaNoWriMo word count goal. I haven’t been able to focus on writing like this since my very first NaNoWriMo, back in 2007. So, this year, I’m shooting for 70,000 words in November instead of 50,000 words. We’ll see how it goes.

You’ll notice I have three benchmark columns in my NaNoWriMo tracker. The first is the basic “peanut butter” goal based on writing 1667 words per day. The second is based on the “reverse NaNoWriMo” method which front-loads the month and decreases your daily word count goal until you get to one word on the last day of the month. I like that method a lot. But, since I’m shooting for 70,000 words this month, I’ve added a third “modified” column. This one starts off using the reverse NaNoWriMo method for the first ten days and then shifts to 2100 words per day for days 11 thru 30.

Ultimately, my goal is to track to the “Modify” column total word count goal. But, I wanted to include all three so that I can make sure I’m at least staying ahead of the “peanut butter” and/or the “reverse” goals.

If you’re planning on doing NaNoWriMo this year, let me know in the comments, and feel free to add me as a buddy on the website. And share your bullet journal word count trackers. I’m always looking for new ideas and inspiration.

Setting up my #BuJo for the New Year

It’s the last week of December, so it’s time for me to get my bullet journal set up for January 2018. Since it’s not only a new month, but also a new year, that means I also need to re-do my future log and start thinking about my 2018 goals.

You may remember from a previous post that I’ve been on the fence about the future log. It wasn’t really working for me. But, I came up with a new layout that I think might make it a little more useful. Plus, I have a lot of travel coming up this year that may make this view something I refer to more often.

I love the little mini month-at-a-glance calendars. I’ve started by highlighting birthdays and other important days. Next up, I’m going to start adding in the travel I have planned. But first, I have to nail down a bunch of trip planning.

With my future log sorted, I moved on to my January month-at-a-glance spread. It’s pretty standard. Unfortunately, I started filling it in with stuff before I remembered to take the picture. So, I resorted to creative use of card stock and my snitch necklace to obscure my calendar and goals.

There are two things I want to point out on my monthly spread… one is the Boho Berry Challenge prompts for January, and the other is the section I added to track my January reading.

This month, I started using the Boho Berry Challenge prompts for December as a daily journaling exercise. It’s been pretty fun and useful to reflect on 2017 in a slightly more organized fashion. So, I thought I’d try to keep up this practice in January. I’m not posting these publicly anywhere, which is (I think) how you’re supposed to be participating. But, lots of people are. So, if you’re interested in seeing how others are doing their prompts in their journals, definitely check out #BohoBerryChallenge on Instagram.

I’m going to do a whole post on my reading wrap-up for December and reading goals for 2018. So, I won’t spend much time talking about that here except to say that “what I’m reading in January” box was left blank on purpose. The little vertical bars are the start of boxes that I plan to draw around titles that will be written down as I start reading them in January. I know. No TBR. Shocking. Again…more on this later.

Then, I remembered that I had some “bigger than just January” goals for 2018, and I probably should have put that in before I jumped into my January month-at-a-glance. Oh well. I guess that’s what the index is for… So, I added this spread next:

When I took this photo the page on the right was still blank, but I’ve since started adding my 2018 goals on that page. The page on the left is a running training log.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that swimming is my main sport. However, due to travel plans and other life stuff going on, I’m not planning to have regular access to a pool for much of 2018. That means it’s time to get back into running shape. However, “walk” days will probably become swim days if I have access to a pool.

I haven’t been running regularly for about seven or eight years. So, I’m being smart about it and using a beginner running guide from Runner’s World. Even though I’m in pretty decent shape for swimming, swimming doesn’t translate well to running, and running doesn’t translate well to swimming. This is why (IMO) it’s pretty rare to see folks who are really good at both running and swimming. So, I’m going to take it slow, but I will say that one of my goals that I wrote on the right side of this page is “run a 10k” in 2018. But, I probably won’t be ready to tackle that until late spring at this rate.

I think that’s all the high-level planning I need to get started in the New Year. So, the next spread is my first weekly spread for January, and it looks like this:

I’ve been using this layout for a couple of weeks now, and it seems to be working for me. I can fill the boxes with day-specific events and tasks. When I’m not busy (like the last two weeks), all my “to-dos” fit nicely inside the boxes, and I don’t even need to break things down to daily spreads.

I’ve left a space in the upper right for my top goals and/or things I want to accomplish by the end of the week to keep it in my face. And, I’m working on adapting my habit tracker to this format. I’m not 100% sure which habits I want to track in January. I already have the running plan spread on the previous page where I’ll be tracking my exercise. So, I don’t think I’ll add exercise here. As I discovered during November’s NaNoWriMo tracking, I hate having to check things off in multiple places. So far, I know I’m tracking reading and writing days. I’ll probably also add “healthy eating” and meditation.

We’ll see how this format adapts to post-vacation life and if it keeps working or if I need to adapt it again.

By the way, if you’re thinking of getting started with your own bullet journal, my local bookstore had a copy of Dot Journaling, so I picked it up to get some inspiration. It’s a pretty great introduction to the expanded world of the original bullet journaling idea and has a ton of great ideas for layouts. Definitely check it out. (PSA: I am in no way affiliated with either of those links and get nothing for recommending them to you. I’m just a fan.)

Happy planning! And happy (almost) New Year!