Investigative journalism and research can help improve your fiction writing.

Taking a page from journalistic writing to help write and edit your novel.

What’s the best thing about journalism that we tend to overlook?

Typically, print investigative journalism is usually condensed, because there is a word count that the writer needs to comply with. A hook. An angle, a balanced discussion, or point of view the author wishes to bring to light. All the relevant information, facts, and references are provided. Regardless of tone and writing style, these aspects are usually always present. So, what is the takeaway for fiction writing?

Focus.

If you break down your writing into scenes – a section of your writing that has its own unique combination of setting, character, dialogue, and sphere of activity – (like a conversation, or a fight, or the first time a character arrives at a destination) you can focus on certain elements to help keep your writing focused, paced well, and if need be, your word count on track.

Granted an article is short prose and has different intentions than a novel, but if you look at each scene in your story and ensure it hits benchmarks of purveying the right emotion and intent, covers the plot points (or facts, or reveals) and has an element that engages the reader… all the hard work is done. Then it’s a matter of ensuring the pacing works for the scene and the prose flows easily. Journalism or Non-fiction can tend to be flat or short in its writing style (apologies for the broad and generally incorrect assumption.) Not a lot of time is spent on world building or on character development. It’s all about supported facts and the intent of the piece.

I think this is especially handy when you are looking at your work and can’t figure out what is wrong with the scene.

What is supposed to happen? What do you intend the reader to get from this scene? Or what (facts) am I meant to show the reader? Is the plot point clear?

See how asking those questions clear away a lot of muddy ground to get right to the heart of the scene. Or if in fact the scene is needed at all.

All of the above points deal with the mechanics of your writing… how it is put together. The other aspect of investigative journalism is research. It should be common sense at this point, but there are still writers out there that begin writing a novel about something that they don’t know much about. Taking the time to build the world, craft characters, look into every little facet that makes your characters compelling and interesting, of the world you are setting your novel in (wondrous, or bleak, or scary…) it’s adding those little touches, brief flecks of complexity that give your writing confidence and nuance. I’ve known authors to spend months researching topics before beginning to write. Some create elaborate topological maps, extensive character profiles. Researching mental illness or medical conditions, collection of colloquial dialogue, or even the fashion and social etiquette of a certain time period. Other writers read scientific journals on forward evolution or potential global impacts of things like pollution, over-population, solar radiation, etc… to get a solid ground behind them before crafting even a single sentence. It boasts sound knowledge of their world, plausibility of the plot, and realistic, complex characters which are a joy to read. The narrative feels solid and realistic no matter the subject.

Things like this can be applied in a developmental edit, but, you can use these tools in the planning phase of writing your novel depending where you sit in the spectrum of Plotter vs. Pantser.

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

System Restored!

After 3 months with a soft social media detox, a computer in for technical repairs, and chemotherapy, it’s time to get back to the regularly scheduled program and reflect on what I did with all that free time… and does social media really warrant the amount of time we spend on it?

At the beginning of March, my computer screen suddenly went dark. I could turn the system on, but was only met with a blank display. Immediately I thought of how much it would cost for repairs, of the potential expensive replacement. Then I agonised over the loss of my files. I back up at the end of every week and the fault happened at lunch time on Friday – so a week’s worth of writing on my WIP (just over 3 chapters) was hanging in limbo. Would I get to recover my work or not? Then there’s the months’ worth of blog posts I’d worked ahead, sitting on a hard drive I can’t get access to.

I elected to take a social media break while my computer was in the shop rather than scramble and create new content immediately. It seemed like a lot of stress to put on me for no reason. And buggar trying to rewrite those chapters to my WIP from memory. The first week was strange. After being used to a tight schedule for so long, I found myself constantly sitting in my study in a Pavlovian response, ready to write, blog, scroll the socials… to an empty desk. Instead of trying to fill this time with more work, I decided to catch up on all those relaxation activities I’d been saving for a rainy day. My chemotherapy is coming to an end and the sessions a little more intense with stronger dosages, so indulgence in reading and catching up on television shows were top priority. Plus, in hindsight, a lot of the writing I was doing towards the end was word salad or stopped mid thought… the chemo brain was hitting hard and from my perspective, I didn’t notice the lapses until now. Admittedly I felt very lazy and unproductive. I had to keep reminding myself that this is a holiday, that I’m taking time to rest and recover, and get over the guilt of not having daily accomplishments.

The social media thing, I did not miss that so much. It’s lovely to keep in contact with family and friends, but did not realise how much time and head space that takes up. On my hiatus, I didn’t have to dress up and look nice every day, I could veg on the couch in trackies, without a care in the world. Maybe if I wasn’t sick and exhausted from my treatment I’d have a different attitude and miss the social interaction; but frankly, I loved the time alone where I didn’t have to put on a smile. Or comfort people because they felt uncomfortable because of what I was going through. I could be sullen and cranky all by myself, cry and get doggy cuddles; it might sound morbid, but it was heaven to revel in that emotion for a while. Purge it from my system.

I watched many (many) seasons of shows that I’d been meaning to get to, read four trilogies that have been tormenting me from the TBR shelf for years, played some video games, and slept. A lot. It kind of feels like a cheat, because now I’m well over three months in front for my book reviews… so despite doing little, I accomplished something.

I usually limit my social media to an hour, or hour and a half a day in the mornings with breakfast. And I think that is not going to change, I don’t need to be wasting any more of my day than that. But I do think I want to limit my time spent on blogging a little more – as much as I love it time spent relaxing instead of scheduling every minute of my day has left me feeling calmer and more refreshed. I have a bad habit of always trying to do too much, and taking time to just be feels important. That doesn’t mean I need to slow down with the blogging, just make sure the time I spend there count.

So I guess I’m back. The hard part of my health is behind me (fingers crossed) and even though I am still having technical difficulties, there are work arounds to keep my productivity up. But the social media break actually helped remind me of what is the correct balance – and let me reclaim time back to spend on more important things.

Have you ever done a social media break? Did it give you anything in return, like perspective, recharge the batteries, or did you miss it too much and swear never to do it again?

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Hitting your stride… starting small and building up your reading and writing habits.

A February 2021 wrap up

I have to admit, I’m making a concerted effort to get my TBR down so far this year. I managed 6 novels this month, taking my total TBR down to 407.

I’m also getting back into the swing of writing regularly again, though most of my writing this month has been in edits and re-writes on my current WIP. I’m giving myself a few months to polish off this draft and am really excited with the forward momentum despite losing work time for chemotherapy and recovery. I’m planning on spending the first half of 2021 drafting and the second half polishing manuscripts ready for submission. With 3 drafts completed, I need to get them to a point I’m satisfied with, and start querying. I can’t keep putting it off or toying with the manuscripts. Otherwise I’ll never get past where I am.

So, I’m past the halfway mark on my queer contemporary novel, which makes me feel like doing a happy dance.

Having this enforced break from my regular pace of writing and work, and now trying to break back into productivity, it’s like I’m starting over from scratch. I’ve mentioned it many times before that you need to create a writing habit. It gears your mind and circadian rhythms into a rewarding routine. So for my first month back into writing, my word count was down (and the fact I did a lot or re-reading and editing to get back into the tone and setting of the novel after time away) in comparison to what I would usually turn out. But I feel a great sense of joy to be back at the keyboard and working towards my goals.

I’m a huge lover of checklists, graphs for productivity, and making spreadsheets where I can colour in squars with each achievement… a visual reminder of progress in very motivating for me and keeps reminding me of what I have achieved and not to be so hard on myself.

What do you do to track your progress?

What helps motivate you in organising your writing?

Besides all that I’ve just been concentrating on getting through my treatment and fighting my way back to health! Combining a bit of physical therapy with my treatment has helped no end. It’s keeping up my physical fitness as well as stacking the cards in my favour for a quick bounce back after all this chemo is over. (It is beginning to look like mid-year until I’m finished with treatment. UGH!) You have good and bad days, but I’m seeing slow progress which gives me a warm fuzzy inside.

I have to wrestle with my pooch for the couch on a daily basis, he seems to think it’s his spot for naps – he still does not understand that it’s for ME to take naps on. My furbabies bring me joy each day, and don’t seem to mind that I don’t have the stamina to play with them too much or take them for long walks. My little fluffy cheer squad!

Not the best quality of picture (because I used my phone and not my regular DSLR camera – and it was a few days before they got groomed, so my boys are looking a bit scruffy. But still cute as all getout!

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Wrapping up 2020…. And good riddance!

Looking back through the year that was, a lot has happened, but a lot did not… It’s kind of a 2020 thing. All my friends are saying the same. My yearly goals have mostly been thrown out the window because of Covid-19 and a cancer diagnosis (again, sigh) but let’s get this wrap up done and put a positive spin on things.

Book worm:

My last catch up was in October leaving my TBR at 423, I didn’t post a November wrap-up because I’d not long started chemotherapy and was focusing on my health and wellbeing, so any work and reading goals felt superfluous. (Plus I was tired and in pain all the time and it was difficult to concentrate.) Though I did read 2 books in November, and completed 8 novels in December, taking the TBR down to 413. I’m still on my buying ban until I get below 400.

I set my reading goal to 52 books for the year, but was really hoping to reach 104… I kept it light with all the financial stresses, health issues, etc… but managed to complete 68 book for the calendar year which I’m happy about.

Thinking back over the year though, I would have to highlight my top five reads:

This Mortal Coil (trilogy) the first two novels were outstanding, it’s action packed and choc full of STEM themes of what the future could look like under heavy influence of genetic manipulation and body modification.

Highway Bodies is a zombie apocalypse with diversity. Highly entertaining and so proud of a fellow Aussie author.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a comedic historical fiction that had me laughing up a storm, really looking forward to completing the series.

I’ll Give You the Sun was a surprise hit out of the park. Bring your tissues for this roller coaster ride.

Reckoning a non-fiction title by Australian darling Magda Szubanski was beautiful melancholic writing that captured a lot of my youth and challenges what it means to not only be an Aussie, but a human being.

Scribe and scribble:

I only managed a paltry 1500 words for the year. With distractions, having to work long hours, being the only one to stay employed through the Covid-19 lockdown for six months, then having to manage doctors’ appointments and chemotherapy, not only did I have little time to write, but my mind simply wasn’t in the right headspace to get creative. It was a depressing year, but I am thankful the worst is behind me.

Levelling Up:

I still haven’t completed my marketing course, it had to put on the back burner in favour of other priorities. But I am still keen to complete it in 2021 and am eyeing off a few other short courses. I love to learn!

Social Butterfly:

My biggest goal for 2020 was to be more social, get out and about more… and well, it goes without saying that it didn’t happen. Lockdown and being immune-compromised has meant I’ve become a bigger homebody than ever. Oh the irony! On the upside, I’ve caught a lot of good television. Australian series ‘Glitch’ has been a big favourite, tv series ‘Insatiable’ had me in belly laughs, ‘Dickinson’ staring Hailey Stansfield was strangely hypnotic, I re-watched the ‘Teen Wolf’ series and making a start on re-watching ‘Supernatural’ now that it is ending; props to ‘Love, Victor’ and ‘Never Have I Ever.’ Fell in love with ‘Little Mix : The Search,’ squee’d over ‘Julie and the Phantoms,’ and like everyone else got a big sci-fi hit with ‘The Mandalorian,’ ‘Star Trek Discovery’ and ‘The Expanse.’

Some movies that brought me joy include: ‘The Invisible Man,’ ‘Underwater,’ ‘Like a Boss,’ ‘We Summon the Darkness,’ ‘My Spy,’ ‘Enola Holmes,’ ‘Love and Monsters,’ ‘Happiest Season,’ ‘Uncle Frank,’ ‘Freaky,’ ‘Godmothered,’ ‘Superintelligence,’ and ‘Monsters of Man.’

Work that body:

I was working out before the Covid-19 shutdown, and was making progress, though it wasn’t until 6 months later that the gym re-opened and I only got in a month before getting diagnosed with cancer and not being able to return. Though as a part of my treatment and recovery I am doing stretches, getting adrenal massages, and anything else the doctors have recommended to increase my chances for a quick recovery. I have lost some weight, my hair has been falling out, I feel a lot of aches and pains and lose my breath easily; but with a prognosis of 100% recovery I know it is all temporary and am looking forward to normalising my health in the new year. Some scary emergency hospital stays knocked my confidence a bit, but the idea of simply being able to take my dogs for a walk around the park keeps me motivated – I mean those soulful eyes would heal anyone!

As much as 2020 has been a dumpster fire, it’s forced me to focus on what is important and plan out my 2021 – it’s going to be a cracker of a year, because I don’t think I could do worse that 2020 anyway. The only way is up!!

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

CHEMO

I’m so cold

Now I’m burning up

My head won’t stop pounding

I’m going to be sick

I’m gonna hurl

I’m about to vomit

If that nurse sticks me with another needle I’ll punch her in the face

I’m sick of feeling like a pincushion

My skin feels like bugs are crawling all over me

Go away

Please sit here, but don’t talk to me

Hold my hand

Puke rising

Why does that nurse have to wake me up, I’d just gotten to sleep

My pudding tastes like pennies

All my food tastes like pennies

Where did these bruises come from?

Technicolour yawn in the toilet bowl

Hot, cold

I love my nurse she makes me feel better, even when I’m mean to her

Don’t stick me with that needle!

Ulcers in my mouth

My poop burns

Why do I spend so much time in the bathroom?

My brain doesn’t work all the…. Who are you?

What was I saying?

I love flowers

The smell is too strong, it’s making me sick

My skin feels like its crawling with spiders

If I remain perfectly still my head doesn’t hurt so much and I don’t feel dizzy

I don’t want to cry anymore

I no longer reply to “how are you feeling…” it’s obvious how I’m feeling

Some of my friends are scared to come and see me

Why are you acting so weird?

I was reading this book and-

I think I’ve ripped a layer of my oesophagus off from throwing up so much

Is that MY hair?!

I don’t want to look in the mirror anymore

Can we please ignore the fact I have cancer and just have a normal day?

I’m sick of watching television

It’s funny how everyone speaks in hushed tones like they might break you if they spoke normally

Will I ever stop throwing up?

Of course I’m grumpy, my body is betraying me

My gums are bleeding again

My bones ache

This is one hell of a hangover

Wow I’ve lost so much weight

Just get through the next ten seconds

Ten seconds more

I’m scared

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Creating an atmosphere to write

Music, ambience, views, nature, books… what helps set the scene for you to pen your next great story?

I go through moods with how I like my environment while writing. I see so many of those playlists on the internet, sometimes I feel like I’m missing something, because while I like to have music playing in the background at times, I don’t associate particular songs to a scene in a storyline.

So I have different modes when I write. At times I like complete silence. Which is fine when your home by yourself, but when you’re not, I need to pull out those noise cancelling headphones to get some work done before I succumb to the urge to bludgeon someone with a heavy blunt instrument.

Other moments I love having an ‘80’s playlist in the background. Something about sense memory of a more innocent time when I was growing up helps to free up my inspiration. Like I’m shedding the stresses of adult life and going back to a time when anything was possible. Music from this time period is like that old oversized cardigan, it’s familiar, you know all the lyrics, and you could listen to the soundtrack and never get tired of the melody. Can’t say my housemate particularly love the retro playlist on repeat, but hey, it’s not about them… and I can always listen to it on my headphones. No harm, no foul, let me dwell in my happy place unencumbered.

I also have moments where I love some easy listening or playing Andrea Kirwan in the background. Her voice melts away my headache and puts me in the mood to write a more intimate, emotional scene. Great for love scenes or creating angst. I’m a mood reader and a mood writer. I don’t have to craft a story sequentially, I can jump forward and backward in the storyline and pen a scene if I have a particular feeling I need to currently capture… yes I’m a plantser! (A combination of a plotter and a pantser for those of you who have not heard that term before.)

Visit Andrea’s website at http://www.andreakirwin.com

Dance music: those feverish times when my fingers are flying over the keyboard, like a coffee fuelled writing sprint. The volume is not too loud to pierce the bubble of extreme concentration as I channel from some other creative dimension. This is particularly useful in action scenes, or when my fingers on the keyboard cannot keep up with my overactive brain. While it feels productive and fantastic in the moment, often when I re-read the days work, some of it is embarrassingly discordant… like and actual monkey took over and was banging at the keyboard.

Ambient noise. Rainforest. Café, office, library… Public places also makes me productive. Something about needing to block out your surroundings to write. And the other layer of people watching you sitting there at a laptop makes me want to look like I’m a productive member of society. Knowing you are being watched is a great motivator, or being surrounded by other productive people make you want to pull your socks up and get to work.

But no matter where I’m working, I need a clean and clear workspace. If I’m writing with paper and pen, I need a bright and light area, whether indoor lighting or plenty of sunlight. There are also moments where I like to sneak down to the computer at night time and write in the darkness. It feels sneaky, intimate, like you’re undertaking subterfuge.

I also love a view of nature. Whether I’m sitting on my balcony overlooking the coast line. Seeing the rolling hills meet the sand and a stretch of white-capped waves rolling in from the horizon. Or down in the sunroom amongst rainforest trees, colourful parrots singing a tune, and a natural spring that brings a serenity with its waterlilies and ducks.

I don’t think I could work in the same place every day forever. It would feel stale after a time. The creative beast needs to be fed with sensations, sights, sounds, and stimulated with verse. Reading helps, conversations, observation, even daydreaming. It is the best way for me to stave off writer’s block… well I don’t necessarily get writer’s block because I switch up my environment, habits, what I’m working on so much that it never gets boring. That, and having a routine (whether I follow it or not) are great guides to keep the prose flowing.

And don’t forget to cut yourself a break. Good writing does not explode from you immediately. Writing is a process of inspiration and creativity, reviewing and editing, fine-tuning, and outside feedback. A solo endeavour, but a group experience. Writer, Reader, Reviewer…

There is no set structure for how to write, just many avenues you can try out for yourself and see what works. You’ll find your groove, fall out of it, and find inspiration again. The key is to never give up and never stop trying different methods. I routinely spring clean my office and re-arrange the furniture, pictures, colour scheme, it give the space a different feel and when I sit down to write it feels fresh and new – with no mistakes – and somehow leave me invigorated and ready to tackle the next challenges.

What are your tips for creating an ambience fit for writing? I’d love to get a writing group together, but living remotely, it’s not necessarily an option. Online doesn’t feel the same. Escaping to the university library is the next best thing. I even went and did a few weeks work at an empty desk in a friends office and it really helped get me out of a low productive moment. There’s always a way…

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Quarterly Goals – July-Sept 2020

Keeping track of my yearly goals – ¾ of the way through…sheesh where did the year go?!

Much of my local area is returning to normal with relaxed precautions from the Covid-19 pandemic, but I am starting to see the long road it is going to take for the economy to return to normal. We’ve been lucky. One of us in the household has always been able to work which means no financial stress or worrying about putting food on the table. Though not completely stress free. I worry about my friends and family. I’ve been daydreaming ways I could make the world an easier place for them… but it’s just that – a dream. It would take a massive Lotto win to accomplish anything like that. (Hint, do you hear me Universe. A Lotto win would be just peachy.) As with nearly everyone I’ve spoken to, concentration and creativity can be difficult in these times. I’ve found motivation a huge obstacle, and many of my yearly goals are focused around networking and connecting with people more in a social setting. With 6 month of the year in lockdown, 2020 is going to be a poor year for progress to my goals. Anyhoo, let’s check in on my achievements:

Book worm:

I’ve managed to get my TBR down from 417 to 407, BUT caved with all my free time and with my goal to #BeatTheBacklist in completing series that I started years ago and yet to finish, I had to purchase so remaining titles to complete the collection… And well I haven’t bought any new releases since last year. I splurged. I might of read 10 for this quarter – which is pretty poor for me – but I purchased 16 titles. That means my total TBR pile is at 423. I’m going to have to get that down again if I want to get any books for Christmas!

Books completed in September… and one blurry puppy (because he was too excited to bet his photo taken.)

Scribe and scribble:

July turned out to be my best month for writing, however the following two months were sadly very low with the word count. Mainly because I’ve returned to the gym and found myself so exhausted of late I kept dozing off or having lapses in concentration for my allotted writing time. Turns out, I just needed to add some more iron to my diet. I’m determined to make coming last quarter my most productive for the year. I have two novels that I definitely want to have a first draft done! Get writing girlie!!

Levelling Up:

Because of above mentioned lack in concentration – and having to pick up more copywriting work, I’ve made no progress on my online marketing course. I have been doing a little more research into other marketing and writing avenues however to help grow my income. Not really helping with certification or professional development, but did increase my portfolio.

Social Butterfly:

Well… emailing, facebooking, and zoom are my entire world for social interaction at the moment. I did venture out once for dinner with the neighbours – which meant we had to line up for ages (socially distanced) provide our personal details for contact tracing regulations, and had to be in and out in 45 mins. It was nice to get out of the house, but not the relaxing social occasion I was hoping for. Apart from that, does quietly obeying my personal trainer at the gym count?

Get creative:

Still on a budget, and busy bidding for work projects so all creative projects are still on hiatus. It’s been six months now and I am getting a serious hankering to do something crafty. Some sewing or maybe furniture restoration… The last quarter for 2020 is looking promising.

Cash grab:

I’ve tripled my regular income, needing to pick up the slack from members of the household losing their jobs because of this pandemic. We support each other. With help from my now unemployed housemates, we are at the stage where we can list items of eBay for an online garage sale hand give our petty cash tin a bit of love.

Work that body:

So great to be able to work out again. I managed to put on some weight with the lockdown, and was feeling depressed and frumpy. And by gosh, that break has made me feel so unfit. It’s been an adjustment getting back into the groove, but now I’m over the hump of returning to regular exercise, I should start to see results and get back to pre-Covid-19 status.

So professional:

My goal to start expanding my digital platform has made no progress this quarter. My time has been so busy elsewhere with more urgent priorities. Maybe I’ll get something done before the end of 2020, but I think it’s more likely this goal will have to wait until next year.

Overall, progress towards my goals for 2020 has slightly improved, and now with lockdown restrictions eased and the country aiming for everything to be back to normal for Christmas, it can only get better. 2020 has been a strange year for tracking my goals. I feel like just skipping over this year – like those awkward teen years – it’s a grin and bear it kind of situation. Though I am counting my blessings and trying to stay positive and focused on the future. Reading about fellow bloggers and their journeys through the pandemic has made me feel not so alone. Like my trainer at the gym says – that last little push makes all the difference, and I plan on bringing the year home with a smile.

How has the current world climate affected you reaching your goals? What has been the biggest influence in helping you get through the pandemic and remaining in a positive frame of mind?

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Keeping track of my yearly goals – Mid-year freak out – June reading wrap-up

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

With the world in a weird place right now – politics kinda scaring me, cancel culture burning through the internet, pandemics, weather catastrophes, huge social issues around discrimination and questioning a person’s right to live… and many of us are out of work, stuck at home wondering about our future, the security of our homes and families. My little list of goals for 2020 feel so trivial and somewhat irrelevant. This list was made in a time when I wasn’t fearing if I could put food on the table, have access to medical care, or being able to keep my house. But I know the planet will get through this. There will be a time of getting a back to normal – even if it is a new normal. So I will keep this list and track it for now. But depending on the direction of our communities and climates I may have to change and revisit my priorities towards the latter end of the year. So, for now, here’s an update on where I’m at on all things related to my reading and writing goals…

Book worm:

Quarterly Goals 2020 Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleI’ve managed to get my TBR down from 453 to 417 so far with no new book purchases. With reading as widely in genre as I possibly can and the COVID-19 shutdown, I’ve managed to get a lot more reading accomplished, finishing off neglected series, discovering some more enjoyable reads, and it’s re-ignited my love for reading again. Though, admittedly, I haven’t made any inroads into my promise to include text books and reference material: mainly for professional development and feeding a curious mind. But I will get there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Books I’ve managed to complete for June 2020

Scribe and scribble:

Quarterly Goals 2020 Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleI have been determined to get my word count up and finish some projects this year – with three novels waiting final edits and 2 novels both at the halfway point… I have been writing, but in comparison to the previous three years I’m not getting as much work done. I know I took April off writing when sick, but I’m going to have to seriously pick up my game if I want to reach my goals. And this is the most important goal for me! I have to take a conservative look at my habits, stop making excuses, and put my head down and work!

Levelling Up:

PrintThe online certification in marketing that I wanted to finish in March is still waiting to get completed… it’s starting to feel boring and repetitive, but I just have to suck it up and get it done. With all this isolation, it was a prime time to knock off this achievement and I have dropped the ball. On a different note, I’ve been doing a lot of research and networking with other authors and the publishing industry, so it has not been a complete waste. Knowledge is knowledge.

 

Social Butterfly:

Quarterly Goals 2020 Pic 05 by Casey CarlisleThe shutdown has meant no social interaction in person – which was the whole point of me including this in my goals list. Being a writer is pretty isolating and I was missing catching up with friends and being a social butterfly. Having some fun. Attending some writing conventions or workshops. Welp, nothing has happened here. Doh! Damn virus! Though I managed to catch up with nearly all my friends and family online as they suddenly had time to chat, skype, and email. So at least everyone knows I’m not dead.

 

Get creative:

Quarterly Goals 2020 Pic 06 by Casey CarlisleAll of the creative projects that I have earmarked have also screeched to a halt. Mainly because of the money I would need to spend (and shops I’d have to visit) to complete them. And with all my household out of work and social isolation still in place, getting my creative on has proven difficult. Though I have started making a list of new projects that I can complete without spending money or leaving the house… though it just feels like I’m adding to the list rather than completing the ones that I’m halfway through. For now, I’m concentrating on writing and raising our household’s income. The fun stuff is going to have to wait.

 

 Cash grab:

Fist Full of Money

Everyone started having online garage sales with the self-isolation to help many losing their source of income. So it felt like the market was saturated and I was hesitant to join the fray. Plus I’m having to pick up the slack with the rest of the household unemployed. I can still earn and operate my business online, so I’ve been bidding for more writing gigs and leaving this clearing out of clutter and selling online business until I have the time and people are feeling confident with spending again.

 

Work that body:

Quarterly Goals 2020 Pic 08 by Casey CarlisleI was actually starting to make progress with managing my health and fitness until the COVID-19 shutdown. My gym only opened last week. Though I was taking daily walks in the bushland behind my house, using the elliptical, and following some fitness workouts on YouTube, I’ve actually gained weight and lost mobility with the frequent flare-ups of my back injury and no access to specialised gym equipment and my chiropractor. I’m actually a little miserable at this back-slide.

 

So professional:

Quarterly Goals 2020 Pic 09 by Casey CarlisleMy goal to start expanding my digital platform has made a little progress. More development in specifics of the ideas and their execution, but I still need a bit more knowledge to pull it off – unless I pay someone for it, and right now we’re watching our pennies. Plus I’d rather have the knowledge and control over my own business and intellectual property as much as I can. I’d hoped to have achieved more in this area by now, but I’m giving myself a break because of needing to concentrate on boosting my income and a few health issues taking up my time.

 

Overall, progress towards my goals for 2020 has been damned poor! But you know the world is a much different place now than what it was in January. Some of these goals may have to change to fit the climate… it’s just a bit of wait and see at the moment. Mainly everything is being swayed with members of this household trying to return to work, shops and businesses being closed or restricted in how they operate, public places still closed or restricting numbers… there are a lot of roadblocks but I’m trying to stay positive and control what I can so that I am moving forward and taking steps to realise my dreams.

 

How has the current world climate affected you reaching your goals – are you putting them on hold too? What unexpected roadblocks do you now have to overcome?

UPPERCASE lowercase 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

The importance of scheduling your writing time.

The importance of scheduling your writing time Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

You want to finally write that novel? Here’s a great tip that has never failed me. I’ve spoken to many aspiring authors and published authors, and inevitably the discussion comes around to how do you write? The getting-stuff-done part, not the process.

Basically it has come down to a very simple rule for me (and nearly everyone I canvased for this article) – you need to make a dedicated window of time each day/week for your writing. I did this while I was working full-time, and when I started writing from home full-time.

The importance of scheduling your writing time Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleI have a rule of absolutely no interruptions for me to get in the zone and write. Even if the words aren’t flowing so well, I have a number of techniques to coax the prose. So writer’s block isn’t a thing for me. I have many tools to keep me writing, and multiple projects to jump to if needed. The biggest hurdle is having time to write.

No running chores, no telephone conversations, no social media, just a comfortable place to sit and get the ideas formed into sentences and on to the page.

At the moment I dedicate the minimum of an hour a day. I set a timer. And beware my demon snarling wrath if you impede on my creative time.

Usually I will write longer than this self-imposed minimum, but I found setting the bar too high stresses me out, leaves me feeling like I’m falling behind. It also allows me to plan my day, whether I have appointments, chores, or other life stuff to do; knowing I get at least an hour of dedicated writing time puts my anxiety in a box, buried deep in a dark hole, never to raise its bothersome head again.

Now this 1 hour minimum takes many forms in its delivery: I could be in my office, completely quiet; I could be in my pj’s lounging on the couch, the dog asleep on me feet; I could be at the library, noise-cancelling earbuds in playing chill-out tunes; maybe at the University library feeling studious amongst all those people filling their brains with knowledge; or even at a café where I can indulge in the atmosphere and the occasional pastry. Heck, I’ve even written on a blanket in the rainforest to the soundtrack of birds chirping, or under the shade of palm trees at the beach. Whatever is working for me at the time. I need to mix it up so I don’t feel complacent or stale. And as long as I get in a minimum of an hour a day to write.

The importance of scheduling your writing time Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Depending on your process, and your situation, you’ll have to adapt this concept to work for you. I know authors who write 10 hours a day in silence (in a stylishly converted shed); some 4-5 hours in a bustling coffee shop; I know a mom who has 1 hour of quiet time from her four children, locks herself away in the attic/office to get stuff done while her husband takes his turn of the child-rearing business. Heck, when I was working in the city and had an hours commute either way, I’d write while listening to music – that meant 2 hours a day to scribble out a narrative. Score!

Work out a reasonable goal for you, be it daily or weekly, and stick to it. Maybe you only write for a few hours on the weekend? You might feel the flow just before bed and spend some time before calling it a day?

It’s all about commitment and perseverance because writing a novel is a big, long-term project. There’s writing the thing, re-writing the thing, editing the thing, maybe doing all those things several times over, and getting the thing published. So creating a regular habit around your writing can only assist you tremendously in your journey.

Get to it fellow scribes.

 

Do you have any writing rituals that help keep you on track and motivated? I’d love to hear what tricks and tips you use.

UPPERCASE lowercase 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Jan – Mar 2020 Quarterly Goals

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I’m attempting the quarterly goals thing again this year, (inspired by Jenna Moreci – check out her YouTube video here  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67VbahiISDo) it helped increase my productivity in 2019 – even if I was a bit lazy in posting my updates… well, posting in general. I think after doing too much of the same thing for five years now, it was feeling stale. So, I’m trying to mix it up a bit, do a slight facelift and hopefully breathe some enthusiasm back into my online activity.

Quarterly Goals 2020 Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleBook worm:

I was surprised once I posted my Goodreads challenge earlier that there were no autobiographies, memoirs, or non-fiction titles; so I plan on getting back to including some of these in 2020. Again variety is the spice of life – no wonder my reading felt somewhat lacklustre.

I shall also be including some text books and reference material: mainly for professional development and feeding a curious mind.

I am also hoping to increase the number of diversity reads and novels written by Australian authors. Mainly because they are the type of books I enjoy the most, and help support my local economy,

And lastly I made little to no progress in finishing series I started years ago – got to get that TBR down.

Plus I’m still bargaining with myself that I can only buy less than half of the number of books that I read. It was torture doing this in 2019, but if forced me to actually read some of the books on my shelves. Consequently my wish list has grown exponentially, but my bank balance is greatful.

Quarterly Goals 2020 Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleScribe and scribble:

2019 has been one of the better years for writing in a long time, and I plan to continue this trend in 2020. I want to at the very least get another four chapters written on my WIP. (My goal is to complete the first draft this quarter, but 4 chapters is more realistic.)

 

PrintLevelling Up:

I’m looking to add a few more feathers in my cap this year. I’m part way through a digital marketing course and want to finish it by the end of March. I also want to start something new and I’m eye off SkillShare… has anyone taken any courses from this platform? Has it provided you with practical skills that have translated in furthering your professional career?

 

Quarterly Goals 2020 Pic 05 by Casey CarlisleSocial Butterfly:

Being a writer, and living in a remote location I sometimes feel like a hermit. So this quarter I want to attend at least one writer event, and one social event. I know I haven’t set the bar very high, but I’m starting slow. Plus its a guaranteed success… right?

 

Quarterly Goals 2020 Pic 06 by Casey CarlisleGet creative:

I was very lazy last year and have several unfinished projects… so I want to finish something. Sew a garment, restore some furniture, renovate a room. Just one thing other than writing.

 

Fist Full of MoneyCash grab:

There is so much stuff stored around this house that is never used or no longer needed. And a good percentage of it is brand new. So I’m challenging myself to start listing items for sale. Probably on eBay. Reduce the clutter and provide a little extra pocket money.

Quarterly Goals 2020 Pic 08 by Casey CarlisleWork that body:

I started a new fitness regimen halfway through last year and had a small amount of success, so I’m taking it up a notch this quarter and want to start seeing some bigger results. I like how healthier eating and fitness has kept my mind alert… now I want my waistline to shrink!

Quarterly Goals 2020 Pic 09 by Casey CarlisleSo professional:

I also want to start expanding my digital platform. I’ve had ideas for years now but still to implement any… this quarter I plan to cease the day!

 

If I can achieve at least half I deem it a success and do a happy dance, if not I’ll have the shame of announcing it publicly and everyone will know what a lazy human being I’ve become. See you in three months for a recap and a new list of goals.

Wish me luck!! I’m also sending out creative vibes and motivation to help you reach your 2020 goals.

UPPERCASE lowercase 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.