January 2017 Review

Hello and welcome to my first monthly progress review! I have a lot of goals for this year so I thought a good idea would be to look at my stats and progress each month and see how I’m doing.

Blog Stats and Progress

I haven’t been keeping track very well, but I believe I got 16 new followers in the month of January for a total of 161 (excluding myself). I’d really love to reach 500 followers this year, so we’ll see. 200-250 is probably a more attainable goal. I did also just purge a few followers who no longer seem to be active on WordPress.

I got 307 views on my blog for the month of January, compared to 166 in December when I wasn’t posting regularly. I had 203 visitors, 81 likes and 20 comments. Not too bad!

My most viewed post is still my Birdseye Protein Copycat post which got 253 views alone last year and 51 this month. My two Bullet Journal posts came in second and third.

Personal Goals and Bullet Journal Update

My main goals for the month of January were to exercise every day, lower my sugar intake, and practice my French every day (as well as fill out everything on my habit tracker). Exercising every day sounds intense, but I kept it simple. In the morning I’d do a very short routine just to get myself moving, and at night I’d tackle my current exercise challenge.

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I’m happy to say I completed this entire thing from Jan 1 – 30. It was not always easy but I powered through it. 100 squats is hopefully no one’s idea of fun, because it’s definitely not mine.

For lowering my sugar intake, I really paid attention to what I ate during the day. My main goal was to cut out everything containing high fructose corn syrup, and limit what I ate that contained other kinds of sugar. I bent the rules a bit sometimes like if I was in a hurry to head out the door and was starving, I ate part of a Power bar, or if I woke up in the morning starving on a weekend, I ate a bowl of Raisin Bran or Cheerios. Sometimes you just need a quick sugar burst when it’s low before, in my case, you get sick or cranky. At night after dinner I allowed myself less than a serving of good chocolate or cookies.

For February, my main goal will be to start and maintain a cleaning habit. I’ll be starting off with a ten day cleaning challenge and go from there.

Bullet Journal To Do and Habit Tracker:

I didn’t use my monthly to do list too much, I’ll stick with this format for another month and see if it gets used more eventually before I scrap it.

My habit tracker however was brilliant. I somehow managed to fill it out 100% for the month, which I’ve never done before and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone else do either. I added a water and sugar tracker as well as a line for my writing word count.

I managed to fill out every box by keeping my bar set low. It’s about building habits after all. I made the bed every day (easy), made sure the kitchen sink was mostly clear at bedtime (not always entirely possible since our dishwasher broke twice this month but I made an effort every day), exercised twice a day, read (at least for five minutes), wrote (at least for five minutes), deliberately filled my water bottle and kept it with me, and kept my sugar intake low for the day.

I managed to write 11,220 words for the month! That’s really good, I will definitely keep up writing even a little bit every day.

For February, I’m keeping my habit tracker mostly the same.

 I removed the making the bed habit because I feel like that one is in place enough that I will keep it up regardless, when I go into the bedroom to get ready in the morning. I also removed the sugar habit though I plan on still keeping the intake on the low side. I’m still going to focus on dishes, exercise, reading, writing and water.

New this month is my teeth habit, sometimes it’s easy to skip brushing your teeth in the morning if you’re not going anywhere, and I’d like to fix that, shooting for twice a day. Also new is my cleaning tracker, to mark it off I need to clean at least one thing a day.

So far the only things noted on my to do list are tv shows that are starting in February and a book I need to read.

Bullet Journal Editorial


I really like my editorial calendar, I just need to figure out how to use it more efficiently. I figured out that scheduling all the books I’m going to post in advance is not a good idea, as sometimes I get new ones that need to go up around the pub date, and sometimes I start reading others that I don’t want to finish, let alone write about. I do think I’ll keep it for February though, as you can see below, even though I already messed up on it in a couple of places.

Bullet Journal 2017 Goals and Movies to Watch

I added this page after I posted my setup for 2017. This is going to be a running list of things I want to work on. So far I’d say I’m doing pretty well on my goals.

I don’t work 6 hours per day yet, and I don’t have a cleaning schedule, but I have been consistently posting at least 3 blog posts a week, practicing my French and writing every day.

Under Health and Food, I have been exercising and cutting down sugar. Working on the flexibility thing, this month I managed to grab my left foot twice and touch my toes a few times, but nowhere near consistent. I’d also like to start making freezer meals so I have a stock of go to meals I can just throw in the crock pot if I don’t feel like cooking on a weekend.

Movies to watch is self explanatory, it’s a continuation of the list I started last year. Embarrassingly, I just updated my blog version of this list for 2017 as I was writing this post.

Bullet Journal Weekly/Daily

I just don’t have enough going on in my day to justify taking the time to make a daily log. I like seeing my week at a glance and filling in anything I need to remember. I took inspiration from a few pretty bullet journals I’ve seen online for this one. I divided it into regular To Dos and Work To Dos. At the bottom of each day I also added the part of my exercise challenge I needed to do that day.

On the opposite page is my weekly list page. I have a list of blog posts I need to write for the week, my meal plan at a glance, my goal tasks from my master list that I’m focusing on, my reading list, my jobs, and my exercises. Each week I choose a short morning routine to do every day. The first week I had a notes section I didn’t use so the next week I removed it. Then the week after that I added a weekly to do list. I may have too many to do lists.

This was a bit long winded, I should come up with a more efficient way of reviewing the month.

Weekly Pinterest Roundup

Welcome to my weekly Pinterest roundup, no images belong to me, only their respective owners. Click each picture to go to the link.

Pinterest is a huge help in my day-to-day life, I use stuff from it every single day from recipes to fitness routines to just cool lifestyle ideas. Every week I like to round up a few things that I really liked recently.

Inspirational:

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I don’t know about you, but I am the worst about procrastinating. In fact, while I was supposed to be writing this post, I had Facebook open in another tab playing games. So bad. It’s been a New Year’s resolution for years now to get productive, so I’m trying. I’m still trying.

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A similar article, but on how to have a productive morning. I have a “morning routine” but it mostly involves coffee and making the rounds of my usual apps on my iPad. Mostly games with a daily reward.

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Along with being productive, I really want to get serious about my writing. I really like this article with its simplistic but brilliant ideas for writing.

Food:

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Greek marinated chicken. This sounds absolutely heavenly and I plan on trying it soon.

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There’s not much I like more than the pairing of honey and garlic. I’ve been looking for another good shrimp recipe and this might be it.

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I struggle to find snacks that aren’t sweet, that I can make at home, so I’d like to try these zucchini chips.

Other Stuff:

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I used to cross stitch a bit (along with every other random craft like it), and I’d really like to get back into it. This bird is adorable.

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I love these shoes with the sweet bow.

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I wish our nightstands looked this neat and put together. They’re usually just a mass of cords and books.

 

Writer Style/A Writer Cooks WordPress.com Edition is Back!

2016 was a year of experimentation. I received free web hosting for a year through a course, so I decided to get my own domain and make a go at running a website for real, see if I could make any money from it like everyone on Pinterest seems to do. Big surprise, I got nothing, barely any views or clicks. The money is really not important though, I’ve discovered that I really don’t like the business side of blogging all that much. This coming year, I want to focus on making great content.

I really missed the WordPress.com platform with its easy reader and friendly community of people. Therefore, I will be back to blogging here, hopefully under my domain A Writer Cooks, if I can get it to work.

I have a lot of great blog posts planned, so if you’re not already, please subscribe. I’ll be posting a ton of book reviews and delicious recipes along with some lifestyle posts. 2017 is hopefully going to be a great year.

Weekly Pinterest Roundup

Welcome to my weekly Pinterest roundup, no images belong to me, only their respective owners. Click each picture to go to the link.

Inspirational:

I love this super simple bullet journal layout for a week.

After reading this post, I got out a notebook and wrote a bit, and it was completely right. Words flowed out way more when I was writing by hand.

This post is the reason my last food post had such a nice image.

Food:

I want to learn more about how to put meals together myself, this is a great start.

Turmeric is one spice I really want to start using, wish it wasn’t so expensive.

This looks like a delicious dish.

Style:

I love the color palette of this look and that scarf!

Such a simple and elegant look.

I love how wearable this one is, very professional but casual too.

Weekly Pinterest Roundup

Inspirational:

This sums up my writing so well. I have story ideas in my head but they don’t exist, so I have to write them for myself.

Writer’s rulebook, such great advice!

A great idea for my meal planning notebook I’m working on.

Style:

I adore plaid full skirts!

I pin a lot of dresses but don’t actually wear many in real life. But this one is amazing.

Love this color combo.

Food:

Mustard Greens, Shrimp and Anchovy Pasta. I’m very interested in trying anchovies.

 

This spinach rice looks so delicious.

I like this alternative to mashed potatoes. Don’t tell my husband it’s beans!

Health and Fitness:

I’ve been doing these three workouts for a week or so, they’re super easy to fit in just a few minutes of exercising in your day.

5 More Simple Writing Tips From Your Editor: Character

In honor of NaNoWriMo, I thought I’d start this series to add a bit more to the ‘writer’ part of A Writer Cooks. If you want to see more after November, please let me know you liked it by leaving a comment! Or suggest what topics you’d like to see tips on. 

Characters carry your book. If you have a book without any characters, it will be very boring and nothing will ever happen. Here are a few tips on how to make more interesting characters.

1. Description

Every character needs to be unique, but it’s way less important how they look than how they act. It’s best to give your characters a bit of description so we can have a general idea of what they look like, and then let us fill in the blanks. We don’t want to read a whole paragraph about how their eyes are blue-black like coal and how flawless their skin is (real description from a book I edited). Work the description in naturally, such as when the character is getting ready. ‘I brushed my long red hair.’ And remember, less is more.

Don’t go cliche either and have your character describe themselves while looking into a mirror. No one actually does that. If you must, pick one or two characteristics that are important and have your character focus on them as part of their character. Which brings us to:

2. Flaws

Don’t write a Mary Sue character: a character that is perfect in every way and everyone falls for them and they know how to do all sorts of obscure hobbies that just happen to be useful. Give your character at least one good flaw. Maybe she’s vain (see above). Maybe she’s insecure (also above). Don’t write a Disney prince for your love interest, give him the insecurity or even anger problems. Maybe he smokes but wants to quit.

Give your character at least two defining traits and one flaw and you’re on your way to a more well-rounded character.

3. Consistency

This goes for the basic stuff (don’t change her hair color halfway through your book or change his name) as well as more complex things. If she stood up to a bully in the beginning of the book, don’t make her scared of a similar situation later on (unless it is important to the story). If she’s brave in one area of her life but completely cowardly in another, that makes for an interesting inconsistency to explore.

Always remember things like how many siblings they have and what their names are, and all other details about their pasts. I am very displeased when I’m editing a book and have to search back through it when I’m sure they mentioned the sister’s name earlier and it has changed. Keep notes if you have to to make sure every detail stays the same throughout the story.

4. Names

You don’t have to break out a name dictionary, but be careful when selecting names for your characters. Readers aren’t as likely to identify with a heroine whose name they can’t pronounce or remember, or a name that doesn’t match the character. Imagine a romantic heroine with the name Hortense (no offense meant if that happens to be your name). You don’t have to go super cliche with a name like Juliet either. Just pick a name that’s believable for your character’s age and situation. If you’re writing historical fiction, try to keep your names appropriate for the time period as well.

Also, try to keep all of the names in your book distinct. In an earlier draft of one of my books, it turned out that the three main male characters were named Joe, Joey and Jay. It wasn’t confusing for me, but I had to think about how other people could be confused. As Jay and Joe weren’t in a lot of scenes together, I left their names alone, but changed Joey to Ryan.

5. Make Your Villain Human

I recently came across a quote I really like that says “There isn’t a person you wouldn’t love if you could read their story.” Your villain or antagonist is a person too. Give them a personality that goes beyond ‘baddie that is pulling the strings to make the hero’s life miserable.’ Give them a moment or two of weakness. Find out why they want to ruin the hero’s life. Give your villain a backstory, even if it doesn’t appear in the book. Make good vs. evil a little more complicated.

 

Want some clarification? Have a specific question? Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts about my tips. Please subscribe to be notified of next week’s writing tips.

Weekly Pinterest Roundup

Welcome to my weekly Pinterest roundup, no images belong to me, only their respective owners. Click each picture to go to the link.

Inspirational Stuff:

This seems like a fun challenge to get into shape. I will be trying this.

While this seems like a lesson for life, it’s also great advice to write all characters in a story as if they matter.

Love this idea for a page in my bullet journal.

Style:

Gorgeous dress.

I love the contrast of the summery skirt with the black accessories.

This capsule wardrobe has great colors.

Food:

I love enchiladas, I love spinach, this sounds like an awesome dish.

I love this way to put together meals without a recipe.