Plans and Goals and Stuff

Happy New Year!

I love fireworks, and here is a video of my favorite fireworks of all, Wishes at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Honestly, nothing can instantly improve my mood like watching this video. Because I recorded it, you can also hear me giggling with pure delight from time to time, and the crowd around me oohing and aahing. (And also cheering because they think it’s over, when it’s not even properly started yet.) The whole thing is about 12 minutes long, so if you just want to skip to the finale, go to 10:45.

So I thought I’d use this, my first post of the New Year, to tell you about what I intend to do with this blog and my whole self-publishing misadventures for the next twelve months, and then you can use the comments section to tell me what you think.

Blogging Bits

1. Write one blog post a week

At the end of every year I use Lulu to make a little hardback book of my blog posts just for me to keep and hopefully look back on sometime in the future with a warm, fuzzy feeling (as opposed to embarrassment and regret), and a by-product of this is I get to see how many words I’ve blogged in the last twelve months. I haven’t done 2012’s book yet, but I know it won’t be anywhere near as thick as 2010’s or 2011’s. I was a lazy blogger. (This wouldn’t be so bad if I wasn’t also a somewhat lazy writer, but we’ll come back to that in a sec.) So in 2013, I plan to write one blog post a week, except for the weeks when I’m traveling.

Or busy.

Or catching up on The Walking Dead.

2. Start a Sunday morning coffee break link fest

As my Twitter followers will have copped by now, I use my favorite social media-related app ever, Buffer, to tweet interesting links when I’m otherwise engaged, not writing and/or watching The Walking Dead. (While we’re on the subject, I’ve “gone awesome” on Buffer, paying $10 a month for unlimited buffered tweets and multiple accounts, and it is so totally worth it.) But there’s an awful lot of interesting stuff out there, and so I have to have some kind of system or I’d waste (more?) hours reading every interesting blog post or article that comes my way. So what I tend to do is check Twitter a few times a day—in the morning while I’m waiting for the kettle, while watching TV, etc.—and I mark anything interesting as a favorite. I also “star” items on my Google Reader and if all else fails, e-mail a link to myself. Then on a Sunday morning I go through everything I’ve marked for the week and read it, buffering what I think other people should read too, while drinking lots of coffee. It’s like my version of the Sunday papers.

But over the course of 7 days it’s a lot of reading, and some things are more interesting than others. So I’ve decided that in 2013, I’m going to post my favorite links of the past week—found in the past week, not necessarily posted—on a Sunday morning, so we both have something to read with our coffee.


Come on, new Scrabble mug. LET’S DO THIS THING.

3. Find the fun again

Blogging about self-publishing and I nearly broke up in 2012. Honestly, I just got so fed up with it. The whole “Why I Unpublished My Novel” post was a low point. I made a business decision—not to waste time on a product that wasn’t selling—and was accused of being shallow or all about the money. Dark corners of the internet told me I wasn’t “cut out” for self-publishing, without knowing a single other thing about me other than that post. I make part of my living from delivering workshops on the subject, and I started imaging scenarios where the organizers would ring up and say, “Nah, Catherine. Forget it. This anonymous person on the internet who hasn’t as much as published a Post-It says you’re not cut out for this, so…” And what’s funny is when self-publishers make bad decisions that are detrimental to the bottom line, they’re accused of being silly romantics who don’t understand that publishing is a business. (?!?!?!?!?!?!) I just felt like I couldn’t win, and I definitely wasn’t having fun.

If I’m doing something in life that isn’t fun, I stop doing it. That’s my rule, credit card bills permitting. So I either had to rekindle my blogging fun, or put an end to it. What had made it fun in the beginning? Figuring out how to do this self-publishing thing, having the proof copy arrive or seeing an Amazon listing of mine for the first time (the night Mousetrapped went live, I stared at it for nearly an hour) and getting messages and comments from other self-publishers saying I saved them time or a migraine. So this year, this pink blog is going back to being about me, to my experiences with self-publishing. There’ll be no commentary on the Us Vs Them debate, analogies involving the Irish potato famine or calls to action. There never was, really, but I felt I might have been creeping towards that place, or that people were expecting me to. So, no. It stops. The blogger who wrote this post is back.

Self-Printing Plans

4. Mousetrapped in hardback

I’m struggling to believe this, but on March 29th Mousetrapped will be out three years. THREE YEARS. What the…? Seriously, where does the time go? Since Mousetrapped basically changed my life, I feel it deserves a little celebration to mark its anniversary, so I’m investigating releasing in hardback via Lulu, perhaps with a new introduction. It will really be for me more than anyone, but I think it’ll be an interesting experiment—and make for good blog fodder. If it goes well, Backpacked might get the same treatment on its two-year anniversary in September.

5. Travelled in bits

As I detailed in this post, my next self-published travel book, um, Travelled, will be released in four parts over the next twelve months: 3 e-book only installments of 3-4 essays a few months apart, and then the completed book in both e-book and paperback just before Christmas.

6. Operation Full Distribution

I’ll be blogging more about this in the coming weeks, but in 2013 I’m taking some of my eggs out of Amazon’s basket and going for full distribution (Amazon, Smashwords, my own website, anywhere else that’ll have me) with all my books. It was this post that really got me thinking and when Smashwords announced that they were starting to accept ePub files, well, logic prevailed. The fact that spent Christmas dumping 20p traditionally published books into Kindle owners’ hands didn’t exactly warm my heart towards them either. (You might not see the 12 Days of Kindle page on Amazon if you click that link; it depends on where you are in the world/whether or not you’re signed in.)


I picked the Erin Condren Life Planner with the most suitable quote. (I hope!)

7. On the road

I’m a very busy girl in 2013. Workshops and speaking gigs in London, Dublin, Waterford, Chipping Norton and London again, it looks like. Last night I was planning a trip in February that will have me on four different flights and staying in four different hotels in eight days. (And I can’t wait for it. Think of my travel document wallet!) You can find out more about all that in this post.

Writing Goals

8. Writers write, don’t they?

2012 was a shameful word count for me. SHAMEFUL, I tell you. If that whole 10,000 hours before success thing holds true, I should be getting published…. hmm, sometime in December 2067. And writers are supposed to write. Talking about it doesn’t count at all, and thinking about only counts a little. (Also not counting: perfect notebook hunting, file re-arranging, index card coloring, how-to book reading, plot planning, etc. etc.) On St. Stephen’s Day—what we Irish call The Day After Christmas Day—I saw Joanna Penn tweet about Rachel Aaron’s book 2k to 10k, so I downloaded it (yes, I read e-books now), read it and then felt something stir deep down inside…. is that…?… do you think it could be…?…that feels like… well, hello there MOTIVATION! Can you even imagine a world where you’re writing 10k words a day? What would that world look like? I think it’d be like the Gumdrop Forest in Elf, but that’s just me…

So I will be writing a lot and, as per Aaron’s advice, keeping track of what I write and how long it takes me to write it. (Blog posts, too. I’ve been at this for about an hour now and I’m up to 1,391 words.) There will be a spreadsheet. There will also be a year planner above my desk, with red marks (a la Don’t Break the Chain) on the days I’ve written, and nothing but white space FILLED WITH GUILT on the days I don’t.

For the record, in the next twelve months I want to:

  • Write a blog post most weeks (approx 60k words, let’s just say)
  • Finish My Current Novel Project, proper draft (totaling 100k)
  • Write A Second Novel, rough draft (100k)
  • Write Travelled, for publication (60-70k)
  • Write a new introduction to Mousetrapped, for publication (2k)
  • Write a new non-fiction project that I’m thinking about, rough draft + proposal (70-80k).

And sleep and eat and travel and finally watch The Killing, of course.

Come to think of it, when’s Dexter back on FX?

9. Writers read, don’t they?

In 2012 I did the Goodreads Reading Challenge, and managed 48 books out of my goal of 52. This year I plan for the same—52 books—but I want to be more organized about my reading, now that a Kindle is involved. I also need to sort out the two Amazon wish lists I’ve had going for years (one on and one on, totaling about 1,500 books) and decide what I’m going to buy in Proper Book and what I’m just going to read in Pretend Book. We’ll see how that goes.

10. Remember why we’re doing this writing malarkey in the first place

My best friend lives in New Zealand and after her recent visit home, we decided to get back into letter writing. She’s not big on e-mail or Facebook (I know—how are we friends?! The answer is, we met when we were 13!) and so we used to send actual hand-written letters, but we hadn’t been too good at it of late. So when I was in London shortly before she came back, I went to Paperchase on Totterham Court Road and bought us both ample supplies of pretty letter writing things, and we’ve got back into it. When I was in Nice I sent her a letter in which I described my novel-writing anxiety… and then went on to talk myself down off the ledge I’d climbed up on. And I did it by telling her the story of why I want to do this whole novel-writing thing in the first place.

In Ireland, you start school around age five, in what we call “Junior Infants.” (Cute, I know.) When I was in Junior Infants, my teacher—who may or may not have been called Ms. O’Sullivan—would sit up on her desk at the top of the class with her legs on a chair and read to us, holding the book open so we could see the pictures. When I’d get home in the afternoons, I’d line up all my Barbies and teddy-bears and basically anything with a face, on my bed, all in rows and all facing front, climb up on my dressing table with my short little legs swinging above a chair, and “read” to the assembled toys, holding a book open so they could see the pictures (which I totally believed they could, because I was convinced toys had a secret life we didn’t know about, which Pixar have since confirmed). But I couldn’t read yet, so I had to make the stories up as I went along. And that’s how I started telling stories.


Me, Christmas morning, age 7/1989 (I think).

Which is what this is all about. Forget, for a minute, the submissions and the query letters and the manuscript formatting and the e-books and the author platforms and the workshops and the word counts and the beta readers and the advances and the twenty-year-old with a seven-book deal and how the latest ghost-written pile of celebrity crap sets your teeth on edge and what the Randy Penguin merger will mean for your writing dreams and your favourite authors. FORGET ALL THAT FOR A SECOND. Or try to. And think instead of what this about, what this is really about, why we want to be writers and entertain readers and see our names on the spines of books.

It’s because we want to tell stories.

And that, more than anything, is what I’m going to try and keep in mind this year.

But seriously—does anyone know when Dexter is back on FX?

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43 thoughts on “Plans and Goals and Stuff

  1. Amy Brown says:

    Great list! I especially like Blogging #3.

    I recently helped a client publish a hardback on Lulu and it was pretty easy, but then we originally chose a book size (Trade Paper) which has a hardback analogue. Lulu actually lets you copy from a previous project when you create a hardback, so all (“all”) I had to do was create a new cover.

    One hurdle I still have to figure out is how to specify the text which appears (dude, I just noticed it’s snowing on your website) on the actual cover of the book; you know, the fabric part under the dust jacket. By default Lulu puts the author’s name, but my author wants the book title. It would be nice to have both! I have to contact Lulu support and figure that out.

    I’m glad I found your blog! It’s one of the ones I actually read. 🙂 I wish you the best of everything in 2013!

  2. alisonwells says:

    This post is right up my street Catherine. Setting your goals, clearing away the head clutter, knowing why you’re doing what you’re doing and really want to do and not letting the nigglies get to you. New year is about being (crazily) optimistic, which is why I’ve set myself up for 31 blogposts this January talking about how we can be creative and sane at the same time but throw in a tint of realism about our goals and a good measure of self-belief and we’ll be a long way there. Best of luck to you!

  3. elizabethraine says:

    I did read Results not Typical when you made it free on Amazon, and to be honest, I immediately wished I’d paid for it. I hope you don’t give up on it entirely, because it’s a great read, but I can see why you unpublished it if it wasn’t making a lot of money. I like your goals overall though, they remind me that I need to finalized my own list.

  4. Katy Gilmore says:

    I just loved reading this (rather than working on my own list now that we are on day two of the new year). I wish you every item checked off, much fun in reading and writing – many stories told in 2013! Happy Year to come!

  5. lornadounaeva says:

    After reading this I ran off and wrote my first ever blog post! Bit scary but had to start somewhere. Quite amazing to think you could write 60k a year just in blog posts. That’s a small novel! Looking forward to the next ( more frequent?) post!

  6. Jon Mills says:

    God — I can’t help finding myself getting anxious and envisioning chickens running wildly around with their head chopped off when I read everyone’s blog posts about what they want to do in a new year. I feel like screaming!!!! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH STOP! WAY TO MUCH PRESSURE

    This year I just want to BE.

    Whatever that is, is whatever it is…

    If I get one new novel done. Great. If I get two, great.

    If I go gung ho and wrote 10… great or maybe not 🙂

    But ultimately I want to remain calm

    Like the old british war poster ” Keep Calm and Carry On”

  7. whacknoodle says:

    You know, I’m probably old enough to be your father—maybe grandfather—but I have to say I love what you’re doing and enjoy your books. Your comment, though, about bad vibes from the dark corners of the internet prompts me to say—‘hey—look at what you have done and are DOING, and ignore the dark stuff, whether real or imagined.’ The wonders of the internet are astounding, and the creeps, naysayers, and general dark spirits should be shunned and ignored. I know, easier to say than do, but I’m just offering you a positive vibe/response to counter any of that! Keep going. You inspire people. (And unlike a shocking number of writing gurus, you actually ARE a good writer!)

  8. Shannon says:

    Great goals Catherine! Just one piece of advice, if I may, definitely stick to the Danish version of The Killing and do not bother with the American version, it was AWFUL. I have never been so angry/disappointed/aggravated by a show before (and I watched every season of Lost from the beginning). But I do recommend (since I know you love some American political shows) the Newsroom and Veep, definitely check those out (maybe they could be incentives for reaching some of your goals! :-)). Happy New Year!

    • catherineryanhoward says:

      I’m all over Newsroom and Veep! Waiting for SE2 of each. My new obsession though is The Mindy Project. Have you been watching that?

      I know the original version of The Killing is suppose to be the greatest TV show in the history but I’ve just never got round to it. Got plenty of flights coming up though so I should get through it pretty quick! 🙂

      • Shannon says:

        LOVE the Mindy Project. New Girl is fantastic as well, I laugh out loud every time I watch one of those (even if I’m by myself). I know I’m looking forward to the second seasons of Newsroom and Veep, too!

  9. Arlene says:

    Whew! I’m exhausted from reading your list of goals 🙂 but good for you! I only found your blog (and your book Backpacked) this year and I’ve enjoyed your writing style, humor and excellent pieces of advise you’ve shared. So thanks for that and good luck reaching these goals. Can’t wait to read about it!!!

  10. annstanleywriting says:

    May much magic invade your life this year, along with lots of writing. The thought of keeping track of word counts gives me the heebie-geebies and hives, but good luck writing more this year. I plan to reach the point where I’m ready to self-pub this year, perhaps towards the end of it. I’ll be counting on your advice!

  11. Nina says:

    I LOVE this post – and it is so similar to my own list it is untrue.
    Numbers 3 and 10 are the killers – I completely agree that it is so easy to forget why we invest so much of our precious time and energy into this crazy game.
    So many writers end up miserable when the daily slog to tell our stories and share them with readers worlwide becomes a chore to be endured instead of a joy. That has to change.
    Wind under our wings girl. WInd under our wings.

  12. T.K. Marnell says:

    It seems like a lot of writers, including me, are making the resolution to rediscover the fun of writing. I think this happens with any profession, really–we start out doing what they love, but then concerns about money and success and what everyone thinks of our work drag us down.

    The world has always been a vicious place, but it seems like it’s getting more vicious every year. Now it’s really easy to condemn someone based on a single Tweet or video clip, and nobody stops for one second to think how their snap judgments hurt real people. I didn’t agree with your decision to unpublish your novel, but it was your decision to make. It made me sick to see people on other sites disparage you after reading just an excerpt of that one post. They disagreed…so what? So that gives them free license to bludgeon your character and smear your name as they please?

    Grrr…Now I’m all worked up. I’m the sort of person who doesn’t hesitate to share an unpopular opinion, so I’ve stepped on my share of Internet landmines, too. I raise one little point in opposition to the majority, and BOOM–all common decency blasts out the window. But as you say, it’s best to let bygones be bygones. All we can do is ignore the Negative Nellies trying to keep us down and keep chugging along.

  13. Jason Beech says:

    You got me pumped to self-publish, even though I want (if I can) to have a publisher for my next novel, so I’m glad you’re excited to carry on doing your stuff. I think it is a shame you unpublished Results Not Typical: that’s a lot of work to then put it back in the drawer. Could you do an Iain Banks / Iain M Banks thing with your books to allow you to dabble in different genres? Whatever you do, best of luck with it.

  14. Deb Nam-Krane says:

    Count me in as someone very pleased that you will be blogging more in 2013 🙂 And I hear you about reading more. 2012 was an abysmal reading year.

    I hope you talk more about your decision to go for full-distribution. It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about. KDP Select might have a lot of advantages, but it’s starting to irk some people, including another favorite blog, Dear Author ( And as someone without a Kindle… yeah.

    Another of my favorite blogs also does something similar to what you’re contemplating for Twitter. She calls it Twitterific and I’ve found some of her links to be incredibly useful.

  15. blogbymalene says:

    Reblogged this on My little library of things that means something to me and commented:
    Inspiration comes from many different places. I get a lot of inspiration from just walking around Paris, reading a good book, looking at a beautiful painting and stuff like that. But I also get very inspired by other blogs. I follow quite a few blogs, to get inspired or just to enjoy some good reading. Earlier this year I rebloged a blog I really enjoy reading – today I will do the same with another blog, which has inspired me to make my own 2013 resolutions when it comes to my writing.

    My own goals for this year:

    1) Write at least two posts a week
    2) Write at least 500words a day on a short story or a novel
    3) Start blogging more seriously, like for instance for a business or company situated somewhere in Denmark – will create contacts and improve my CV.
    4) I already read a lot! But more reading will create more inspiration. This can be books, other blogs, articles that are relevant for me in some way ect.
    5) Use the different social medias more to get more people reading my blog – do not be afraid to show what I do.

    • catherineryanhoward says:

      According to Malcolm Gladwell’s books, those who reach the top of their game (be it in playing an instrument, winning an Olympic medal or whatever) have already spent 10,000 hours practicing their craft.

  16. Najmah says:

    So I just came across this post and I love it! This has reminded me that even though I’ve not kept any New Year’s resolutions this year, I still need to write down some goals so I can stay motivated and keep focused! Thank you for the inspiration!

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