2018 Reading, Writing, & Living Plans

Last year I made up my own reading challenge for the year. On January 1, 2018, I reported to you how I’d done. I fell a little short of my goals, but overall I was pleased. I enjoyed many books last year and found lots of new authors to follow.

My 2018 Approach

I’m taking a different approach in 2018. A couple of months ago I made a list of books I wanted to read. Finding nearly 500 books on the list was more than a little daunting. (I’m not kidding!) Rather than setting goals for reading certain books by genre or category in 2018, I plan to just work on that ever-growing list of books I want to read. No doubt, the list will grow more than enough throughout 2018 to counteract the number of books I read during the year. How fortunate I am that I can read and I have free access to most of the books I’d like to read through local public library systems!

The other change I made for 2018 is to include a monthly writing goal. I recently read that a task will fill up the time allotted for its completion. There’s a lot of truth in that for procrastinators like myself. I will never finish writing my southern historical novel if I don’t give myself some measurable goals and deadlines. I’m excited to see how the year and my manuscript go!

January Goals

I hope to add an additional 2,000 words to my scenic plot outline for my historical novel with the working title, The Spanish Coin. That’s a conservative goal for the remainder of January. On a good writing day, I can turn out 4,000 words. I haven’t had a good writing day in quite a while, so I’m starting out small this year.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

I hope to read three books.

If I’m accountable to my blog readers for my reading and writing in my first blog post each month, that should be enough incentive for me to get a lot of reading and writing done in 2018. However, I also want to sew, quilt, and play the dulcimer – three hobbies I neglected in 2017. Watch for my February 5, 2018 blog post to see how I did.

I got my dulcimer out of its case last Thursday and felt like I was starting all over learning how to play it. I definitely need to practice at least several times a week or I’ll lose everything I ever knew about playing it.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading The King of Lies, by John Hart. It’s the January pick for Rocky River Readers Book Club.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.


My 2017 Writing Plan of Action

Here it is the end of the third week in January and I’m just now articulating my 2017 writing plan of action. The name itself sounds arrogant, but that isn’t my intention. As an aspiring author, I need a plan and I need to act. I call it a “plan of action” for my own encouragement and not to impress anyone.

My 2016 Plan of Action was short and to the point. In this year’s plan I’ve tried to get into specifics and goals for various social media. Here’s my 2017 plan:

Consistency, Consistency, Consistency

In real estate, the maxim is “Location, Location, Location.” If I am to establish my “brand” as a writer, my maxim must be, “Consistency, Consistency, Consistency.” Just as a character in a work of fiction has a distinguishable voice or way of speaking, my voice on social media needs to be consistent. My style of writing needs to be authentic and not all over the place. Likewise, I need to be consistent in my presence on social media. If I just blog on a whim, my audience will fall by the wayside. If I Tweet with no regularity, I’ll lose my followers. My challenge in 2017 will be to use social media on a consistent basis while making time to write. Being a relative newbie in the world of social media and not being technologically savvy, most days I feel overwhelmed by how much I have to learn. My actual writing has been taking a back seat lately. I must strike a healthy and productive balance in 2017 as I work toward getting my novel manuscript published. If I don’t, all the years I’ve spent writing the book and all the months I’ve spent sharpening my social media skills are all for naught.

My ideal reader

Writers are instructed to identify an ideal reader. This isn’t a real person. This is an imaginary person you write for. Some writers give this ideal reader a name and they have a visual concept of what that person looks like. I’ve concluded that my ideal reader is complex. Ultimately, my ideal reader is someone who enjoys southern historical fiction, has an interest in history but also keeps up with current events. My ideal reader is a well-informed citizen and not just a spectator. My ideal reader is not offended if I occasionally reveal my beliefs or civic concerns on social media. My ideal reader is not only willing to have his or her assumptions questioned but actually seeks out such literature. Does such a person exist? I’m counting on it!

It’s easy to sit here and wax poetic about my plans, but now comes the hard part. From what I’ve read, I need to determine on which social media platform(s) my ideal reader hangs out and then concentrate my efforts there.


Study my end-of-year 2016 reports, stats, etc. & determine what worked & what didn’t work & what I need to do differently in 2017. (I considered blogging three times a week; however, I concluded that’s too much for me. Instead, in addition to my regular Tuesday and Friday blog posts, I will occasionally blog on other days with no set schedule for these random posts.)

Plan blog topics for the year. (By that I mean, my first blog each month will be about what I read the previous month. My second blog each month will be a line I like from a book. My third blog each month will be a list of things I’ve learned about a particular topic. In other words, there will be a            pattern to my blog posts every month. If the plan doesn’t produce results, I need to make adjustments.)

Try to use my blog to increase my exposure as a writer & establish my brand. Set goals for number of followers & number of bloggers following my blog.

Make a list of blogs I’d like to guest blog on.

Figure out how to make necessary changes to my blog’s set up to improve its Search Engine Optimization.

By the way, if you have trouble reading my blog on your cell phone or tablet, please let me know so I can take actions to rectify the situation. Please let me know if you have difficulty seeing or downloading photos I include in some of my blog posts. I need feedback about any issues you’re having.

Twitter @janetmorrisonbk

Study my end-of-year 2016 reports, stats, etc. & determine what worked & what didn’t work & what I need to do differently in 2017.

Try to use Twitter to increase my exposure as a writer & establish my brand. In order to establish my brand, I need to create more original content as opposed to primarily retweeting content generated by others.

Set goals for number of Tweets and number of followers.

Pinterest:  http://www.pinterest.com/janet5049

Study my end-of-year 2016 reports, stats, etc. & determine what worked & what didn’t work & what I need to do differently in 2017.

Try to use Pinterest to increase my exposure as a writer & establish my brand. As with Twitter, I need to create more original Pins. Janet’s Writing Blog is my only Pinterest board that is 100% original content.

Evaluate my boards and the order in which I display them.

Set goals for number of followers for these boards: The Writing Life; Novel in Progress: The Spanish Coin; Blue Ridge Mountains; Great Smoky Mountains; I Need the Light; Sequel to The Spanish Coin; Janet’s Writing Blog; and Blog Odds & Ends.

Facebook:  Janet Morrison, Writer

Try to use Facebook to increase my exposure as a writer & establish my brand. My personal page is just what it sounds like. My “Janet Morrison, Writer” page is where people who are interested in my writing can “Like” me.

Set goal for number of “Likes” by Dec. 31, 2017.


Goodreads.com is a website I enjoy as a writer and as a reader. It’s free to create an account and then to participate as much or as little as you wish. You can search for books or authors and create a list of books you’ve read, are currently reading, or want to read. Book reviews and book ratings on a one- to five-star system are encouraged but not mandatory. I have been lax in writing reviews, and I don’t always rate books I’ve read. I need to increase my activity in 2017 in order to get the most benefit from this completely free website. Oh – and there are a multitude of book giveaway contests for account holders.


Learn about the potential LinkedIn holds for a writer. (To say I rarely use LinkedIn now would be a huge  understatement.)

Try to use LinkedIn to increase my exposure as a writer & establish my brand.


Learn about the potential Google+ holds for a writer. (As with LinkedIn, I rarely use Google+.)

Try to use Google+ to increase my exposure as a writer & establish my brand.

Website:  www.JanetMorrisonBooks.com

Review analysis for end of 2016.

Figure out which changes I can make and how to accomplish them.

The Spanish Coin southern historical mystery novel manuscript

Get 2 beta readers to give me feedback.

Hire a professional editor to do a developmental edit.

Pursue getting a literary agent or self-publishing.

Only time will tell how successful I am in carrying out this grandiose plan. All these social media activities are touted as being necessary for authors. Truth be told, I’d rather just write!

If you took the time to read this entire blog post, you deserve a prize. I don’t have any to offer, but you do have my sincere appreciation.

Until my next blog post . . .

I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

In your chosen work, do you make an annual written plan?


Writing Plan of Action Update

My “Writing Plan of Action – Revised June 15, 2015” sort of fell through the cracks. In fact, I soon forgot all about it! In my own defense, we remodeled our kitchen last summer. If you’ve ever lived through a kitchen remodeling project, you will remember how all-consuming that is.

Refresher on June 2015 Plan

Something reminded me on Monday that I had a writing plan. I was shocked to read that my last revision to it was made more than 14 months ago. In a nutshell, here is that old plan: Schedule book signings/author events; blog every five days or so; look for writing contests to enter or magazine articles to write; edit my historical novel manuscript (The Spanish Coin) one day every week; and start in earnest to find a literary agent.

I have failed on all counts.

Progress made on novel manuscript

I recently got back to work on The Spanish Coin after a strange year with many distractions.

Sometimes I think I read too many “How To” books about writing and don’t spend enough time writing. For instance, I read a recommendation that my characters’ thoughts should be italicized. After going back through the first 15 chapters doing that, I read a more convincing recommendation that thoughts should be blended into a novel through characters’ voices. The reasoning was that italics pull the reader out of the story. I went back through chapters 1 through 15 and converted the italicized thoughts into a more blended format. Then, I converted thoughts in chapters 16 through 20 from “she thought/he thought” to a blended format. I hope I got it right!

My Writing Plan of Action – Revised August 25, 2016

  • Hire a professional to evaluate my The Spanish Coin manuscript;
  • Edit manuscript in light of that evaluation;
  • Continue to blog every Friday;
  • Get back to work on a sequel to The Spanish Coin (tentatively titled The Banjo); and
  • Seek representation by a literary agent or self-publish.

Let’s hope I am more successful following my new plan than I was my old one!






I’m trying to come back

When I wrote my last blog post in October, I had no idea the next time you heard from me would be the second week of December. For a variety of reasons, including poor internet service, I took a break from blogging. It wasn’t planned, and it happened one day at a time.

As I am able, I will post blogs about what I’m reading and what I’m writing. Since my last blog, I learned that the story I pitched for the upcoming Revolutionary Women issue of Cobblestone magazine for children was rejected. Since Molly McCurdy’s story is a local one for which there is no certifiable documentation, it is understandable that the magazine’s editors chose not to pursue my story idea. It was worth a try.

I have just finished reading James Scott Bell’s 2012 book titled Revision and Self-Editing for Publication, 2nd Edition. I gleaned many pointers from it. I plan to use Mr. Bell’s recommendations to systematically edit and revise my The Spanish Coin manuscript. That project should keep me busy all winter. I have added specific editing and revision tasks to my daily calendar through February 2016.

Ironically, I started writing this post 30 minutes ago. Issues with my internet service have prevented me from writing more. I changed the title of this post from “I’m back!” to “I’m trying to come back.

My Writing Plan of Action Update

I blogged about my writing plan of action on January 18, 2015. It’s time to give you an update.

You may recall that my plan in January included goals for my anticipated book of vintage postcards from the piedmont of North Carolina. That book did not come to fruition, so my plan was revised. This is what it looks like today:

(1) Schedule book signings/author events (on-going);
(2) Continue to blog every 5 days or so;
(3) Continue to search for writing contests to enter or magazine articles to write (on-going);
(4) Set aside one day each week to edit my historical novel manuscript, tentatively titled, The Spanish Coin, (until I get it polished as much as I can); and
(5) Start in earnest to find a literary agent to represent me and my novel.

I continue to try to schedule book signings and other author events. The only one I have on my calendar this summer is at the J. Hoyt Hayes Memorial Troutman (NC) Branch Library on August 27. With our house being remodeled during the next several weeks, I did not want to schedule any events until later this summer. It’s not like people are beating a path to my door begging me to come speak about my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina! I did not want to schedule any events in June or early July. I didn’t have any requests for that time period, so it worked out fine.

Originally, I thought I needed to blog daily. I came to realize that no one wanted to hear from me every day. My writing life is not that compelling. I adjusted my plan to blog every five days or so, but I will not blog just for the sake of blogging.

I continue to work on stories to submit to writing contests, although I haven’t produced any winners yet in 2015. I wrote a creative nonfiction piece about my 4th and 5th great-grandmothers for the GENEii writing contest sponsored by the Southern California Genealogy Society. I entered a contest in which the prize was to have an entire manuscript evaluated by Barbara Kyle, but I didn’t win that one either. I entered “The Other Woman,” a 1,000-word short story in the Bevel Summers Short Story Prize competition sponsored by Shenandoah Literary Review, but I learned a couple of weeks ago that it did not make the final round of judging. Such is the life of a writer, but at what point does it become counter-productive to keep entering writing contests and not winning or placing? There were more than 1,000 entries in the Bevel Summers competition. My story was eliminated going into the third round of judging. No time spent writing is wasted; however, I must be selective because most contests have an entry fee. Getting no constructive feedback from writing contests is a drawback. My money might be better spent in getting my novel manuscript evaluated by a professional.

We’re down to number four on my plan. This is where the wheels begin to fall off my wagon. I thought it would be easy to set aside one day each week to edit and revise the manuscript of my historical novel, The Spanish Coin. I have failed to discipline myself to accomplish that. I have worked on it for a few minutes here and there, but that is a terrible way to approach such work. I must block out at least an hour or more on a regular basis to do it justice. Being surrounded by the noise of a remodeling project is not conducive to any form of writing, especially something as important as a novel. Until I get number four under control, I can’t move on to number five.

A written plan for my writing makes me accountable. I’m a discouraged at the moment, but I will keep writing. It’s what I love to do!

How’s That “Writing Plan of Action” Working For You?

On January 18, 2015, I posted a seven-point “Writing Plan of Action” and promised an occasional update. It’s been a month, so I decided to assess how I’m doing.

(1) Schedule book signings/author events. I have scheduled a book signing on April 11 at 2pm at The Book Shelf in Tryon, North Carolina. I haven’t had any success with public library bookings. I’m not giving up!

(2) Continue to blog every day. I was doing very well with that until I read that I shouldn’t blog every day. (That was the one thing I thought I was doing right!) I’m struggling to find a schedule that suits me and will keep my followers interested. I have a lot of learn.

(3) Continue to research and write captions for a Piedmont NC vintage postcard book. I continue to work on that.

(4) Spend two hours each week building a list of places that might sell a Piedmont NC vintage postcard book. I haven’t kept a record of the time I’ve spent doing that, but I have worked on it a little.

(5) Continue to search for writing contests to enter or magazine articles to write. I’m pleased with the progress I’ve made on meeting this point of my plan. I have entered one contest and made a chronological list of more contests to enter this year. I’ll be ready in a few days to pitch an idea to Cobblestone magazine. I’ve written a piece about Maggie McCurdy that I hope the magazine will use in its March, 2016 issue. I wrote an article for Cobblestone in 2007 titled, “Aunt Lula Buys a Model-T.” Putting this “Writing Plan of Action” on paper nudged me into working on this aspect of my freelance writing.

(6) Set aside one day each week to edit my historical novel manuscript. This is where the wheels fell off the wagon. I have only worked on this one day in the last four weeks.

(7) If Arcadia Publishing rejects my author proposal for a Piedmont NC vintage postcard book, start in earnest to find a literary agent to represent me and my novel. I cannot submit a proposal to Arcadia until after February 25.

Overall, I’m pleased with what I have accomplished since making this writing plan. It definitely helps me to have a written plan. Based on this plan, I have made daily lists of things to do. I tend to be too optimistic and end up moving many items from one day to the next.

I will eventually get most things on the list done, and I will try not to beat myself up over the things left undone.

Postcard captions in dribs and drabs

The title for today’s blog posting came to me and triggered a question in my mind. Where or how did that saying originate? It seems that dribs dates back to the 17th century in some English, Irish, and Scottish dialects and meant “an inconsiderable quantity” or sort of like “drip.” The origin of drab in conjunction with drib isn’t as clear. It meant a “small debt or sum of money in England in the early part of the 19th century. I must admit, though, that I thought it was “drips and drabs” until I looked it up a few minutes ago. The joke is on me! It just goes to show that sometimes I think I know what I’m talking about but I actually don’t. At least I was using it correctly even though I wasn’t spelling or saying it correctly.

I had hoped to edit my historical novel manuscript, The Spanish Coin, for four hours today. (Anyone remember that Writing Plan of Action I posted about a few days ago?) Instead, a plumber was in the house working in various rooms for a couple of hours. It doesn’t take much to distract me. There was just no way I could settle down and get any uninterrupted time to edit that book between that disruption and then the aftermath of putting things back into cabinets and mopping the kitchen and bathrooms. I did not want to abandon my writing completely, so I did the research for and wrote nine vintage postcard captions in preparation for a possible piedmont North Carolina book for Arcadia Publishing. (My goal was to write two captions today.) I’ll keep you posted.

Striking a balance in life

With my “Writing Plan of Action” in place as of yesterday, today I turn my attention to striking a balance. I have the luxury of not depending upon my income from writing to keep me afloat. I would have drowned a long time ago if that had been the case! My income from writing thus far officially qualifies it as a hobby, according to the Internal Revenue Service. That means it does not matter how much writing puts me “in the red” financially; it’s just a hobby.

Don’t get me wrong; I would love to be able to make a living by writing. That’s what all writers dream of and aspire to, but few of us achieve that level of success. It would be marvelous if my historical novel manuscript, The Spanish Coin turned out to be “the Great American Novel,” but how often does that happen? I certainly won’t gain fame or fortune writing vintage postcard books like The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, but it is a thrill to see my name on a book as the author.

As I jump into my new “Writing Plan of Action” this week, I want to keep all facets of my life in balance. Writing and everyday life tend to leave no time for playing the mountain dulcimer. I’ll never become proficient at playing that lovely stringed musical instrument from the Appalachian Mountains if I don’t practice.

Playing the dulcimer a few minutes each day, studying the Bible, visiting the sick and homebound, walking the dog, quilting, sewing, doing needlework, and reading for pleasure are all things I need to make time to do. Those are the activities that tend to get squeezed out as I get absorbed by the self-imposed demand to write, write, write.

Tomorrow I will make yet another attempt to strike a balance in my life.

My Writing Plan of Action

This being my 100th blog post, I thought it was a good time to make a “Writing Plan of Action.” I made such a plan a couple of years ago for making items to sell in my craft shop on Etsy.com — Hickory Ridge Crafts. I tend to procrastinate if I don’t have a written list to keep me on task.

My “Plan of Action” for Hickory Ridge Crafts started as a weekly list. I soon found I needed a daily list; otherwise, the end of the week would arrive and half the things on my list had not been finished. What I present today in this post is seven goals and objectives, most of which have no end date or deadline. As I plan each week, I will assign tasks to each day in order to accomplish these goals and objectives:

(1) Schedule book signings/author events (on-going);

(2) Continue to blog every day (on-going);

(3) Continue to research and write captions for a Piedmont NC vintage postcard book so I can propose the book to Arcadia Publishing (on-going);

(4) Spend two hours each week building a list of places that might sell a Piedmont NC vintage postcard book (which must be included in my author proposal – beginning next week;

(5) Continue to search for writing contests to enter or magazine articles to write (on-going);

(6) Set aside one day each week to edit my historical novel manuscript, tentatively titled, The Spanish Coin, (until I get it polished as much as I can); and

(7) If Arcadia Publishing rejects my author proposal for a Piedmont NC vintage postcard book, start in earnest to find a literary agent to represent me and my novel.

Sounds like a plan! I’ll give a progress report occasionally.