A snow-covered ROW80 check-in

I’m writing to you from Southwest Virginia, where I’m currently trapped in a snow globe–I mean, uh, snowstorm. And not really trapped, since the weather has been so mild and thus, the ground is fairly warm. So, from the sort-of winter wonderland, here’s my check-in for the week.

Spent most of the week writing and combing through Chapter 2 and part of Chapter 3 of Made of Shadows. My initial rewrite of the “meet cute” for Zoe and Blake posed some problems (i.e., messed up the following parts of the plot, which were actually working just fine). Thanks to some stewing today, I’ve located the problem. Then I’m off!

I’ve been reading some of the 43 Light Street books by Rebecca York. I saw her speak at a Virginia Romance Writers meeting last year and learned a lot from her talk. Her books are really addictive and her plots are very character driven, so I’ve been reading some of her work (currently, Guarding Grace) to study how she allows the suspense element of the plot to drive the story forward, while providing plenty of space for romance. This approach actually helped me find the flaw in my meet-cute scene because I realized that’s not how a given character would react to a particular development.

My ROW80 goals:

  • I revised Chapter 2 and part of Chapter 3. I revised Chapter 2 a few times and am proud to have worked the kinks out before I move forward.
  • I’m spending more time on Twitter, taking breaks in the morning at work and before I write in the afternoon, but I haven’t carved out a space for Facebook check-ins yet.
  • Read a lot of awesome blogs this week, but always on the run, so I haven’t started doing regular “mash-ups of awesomeness” yet.
  • Need to work on bio critiques for my Team WANA1011 peeps and immerse myself in a few manuscripts I need to critique as well.

I am still looking for a place of balance, where day job, writing, social media, household management, relationships, social life, exercise/nutrition can all coexist. Looking at that list, LOL, it doesn’t look good. By year’s end, I plan to have not one but two manuscripts ready for query. I will get there. Whether I’ll find a sense of calm within the chaos…well, that remains to be seen. 🙂

Since tomorrow is President’s Day, I’m hoping to spend the day at home, doing a few random things for day job and plunging into Made of Shadows. We’ll see if my boss forces me to clean the snow off my car tomorrow.

How are your writing goals going?

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Looking Forward in 2012 and New ROW80 Goals

 

“I have desired, like every artist, to create a little world out of the beautiful, pleasant, and significant things of this marred and clumsy world.” –W.B. Yeats

In light of some of the developments in so far in 2012, I’ve decided to revise my goals for the first round of ROW80. After writing my first set, I realized that I had a lot of goals that I hadn’t actually written down. And, since I’ll be attending the Virginia Romance Writers’ For the Love of Writing Conference in May, I also need to set Pierce My Heart aside for a while so I have enough time to polish up Made of Shadows for the conference.

Halfway through February, I’m not sure how I’m doing on my New Year’s resolution. My resolution isn’t so much a personal challenge as it is a necessary lifestyle change. I realize I’ve been letting go of the some elements of life that are core to who I am: my artistic, creative side and my spiritual side. My stories come from a deep well within, and it’s hard to hear them when I listen to the voices that insist I’m better off using my creative energies in other ways. I like public relations writing, but I need to write stories.

Storytelling is a lot like gardening. You plant seeds, nurture them throughout the year, and have faith that your hard work will produce a bountiful harvest. That harvest won’t just provide sustenance for the winter. It will also provide seeds for next spring. I’ve yet to find another line of work that provides me with that fulfillment.

There’s a post-it stuck to my refrigerator bearing this quote from Buddha:

“Your work is to discover your work and then, with all your heart, give yourself to it.”

Whatever our art, whether it’s cooking, gardening, programming, nursing, writing, or painting, each of us has a dharma, a path in life that fits us best. We become the best possible versions of ourselves when we find and live our dharma. What have you, with all of your heart, given yourself to? What bold steps have you taken in life to achieve your dreams?

The worst thing we can do is to do things in life because we think they are what others expect of us or because we want to prove something. I realized late last year that I’d spent too much time trying to prove something to myself. I’d moved away from what really mattered. 2012 is all about giving myself to my life’s work: my stories.

My goal for 2012 is to complete query-ready drafts of my two WIPs, Made of Shadows and Pierce My Heart. I’d also like to draft another story as well, but if by December, I’m querying those two pieces, I’ll be satisfied with that. I’d also like to continue building my author platform.

In light of those developments and revelations, here are my new ROW80 goals:

1.)    Revise three chapters of Made of Shadows per week, so this manuscript is ready to go for the writing conference in May.

2.)    Blog at least twice per week. (I might up this to three times per week later in the year.)

3.)    Stop by Twitter once or twice per day, excluding Sundays.

4.)    Check in on Facebook once a day, except Sundays.

5.)    Read three blog posts per day, except Sundays.

6.)    Complete two bio critiques per week for my fellow Team WANA1011 members.

Well, here it goes. How are everyone else’s writing goals coming along?

Wednesday ROW80 check-in

A short post today. I’ve written 1,302 words so far this week. I’m not blogging in-depth tonight because I’m recovering from a migraine. Hopefully I’ll have a more fun and exciting post for everyone on Friday!

How are your writing goals coming along this week?

And, so I don’t leave anyone empty-handed, a quote:

“I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all.” –Richard Wright

Sunday ROW80 and This Week in Review

Friday, I blogged about how nebulous Pierce My Heart, my latest WIP, has been feeling. I can see the potential in this story. I know what it can be, and I know it will get there. So the reason I was stuck felt beyond elusive. And I received some good advice about getting my creativity mojo back.

I started out Saturday with a character Q&A. I didn’t exactly learn anything earth-shattering about the character in question, but I realized that there was a strong theme in this story—one of self-discovery and acceptance—that I’d been overlooking.

The floodgates opened. Saturday’s writing session turned out to be more along the lines of my usual ones. And it brought this week’s writing total way past the goal of 3K. In fact, my word-count this week is more in line with the 4-7K I usually write.

A few of you directed me to some great resources that I want to mention here. First, Matthew Wright, whose most recent blog post about Tolkien provides some insights into contrasting the quiet, pedestrian aspects of life with the more extraordinary, larger-than-life moments. And second, Holly Lisle’s “One-pass Manuscript Revision.” Holly deftly deconstructs the notion that we need to revise our manuscripts 20 times before they’re ready. She writes:

“Doing a seventeenth revision on a project does not make a writer an artist or move him above the writer hoi polloi any more than dressing entirely in black or wearing tweed jackets with leather elbow patches or big, black drover coats. These are all affectations, and smack of dilettantism. Real writers, and real artists, finish books and move on to the next project.”

And my weekly word-count, in summary:

  • Monday: 958
  • Tuesday: 0
  • Wednesday: 615
  • Thursday: 851
  • Friday: 0
  • Saturday: 2,055
  • Sunday: 0

That’s a total of 4,479 words, well above my goal of 3,000. And I blogged Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, meeting my second goal.

How are your goals going? Are you gaining momentum for 2012?

Finally, here’s a quote to kick off a new week:

“Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depth of your heart; confess to yourself you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

Wednesday ROW80 Update and Some Blog Fun

Last week I was very honored when  Alicia Street gave me the “Versatile Blogger Award.” Thanks, Alicia!

The award has several stipulations. One: I have to tell you seven random facts about myself (see below). Two: I have to post the lovely logo on my site, which isn’t a problem because I love pretty, shiny things. And three: I get to pass it on to other bloggers.

I am pleased to bestow the Versatile Blogger Award upon these people. Perhaps some of you have already received it, but I wanted to name you anyway:

David N. Walker

Kendall Grey

Coleen Patrick

And now, as per the rules, here are seven random fun facts about me:

1.)    My husband and I were together for 10 years before we tied the knot. (Hey, fools rush in.)

2.)    My favorite book is Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Hilarious. Delightful. Perfect.

3.)    The only thing that bugs me more than people who don’t use their turn signals (I’m not a mind-reader!) is people who wear pajamas in public. If you’re well enough to go to the grocery store, you’re well enough to wear actual pants.

4.)    I hate peaches. Don’t know why. Just do.

5.)    I love roses, especially coral roses.

6.)    I am NOT a morning person.

7.)    I am not weird. I am delightfully quirky. 🙂

My ROW80 check-in:

  • Monday I wrote 958 words. Today I wrote 615, bringing the total to 1,573. I tried the old trick of opening a blank Word doc and seeing where the muses take me. It worked out nicely tonight.
  • Working on my goal of blogging Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.

ROW80 Goals and the ‘Latte Effect’ of Writing

Like many of my writerly friends, I’m a very goal-driven person. Think about our job: We write books in the hopes that someone will publish them, read them, benefit from them. That can’t be done without a strong sense of direction. So we set goals, tangible manifestations of our dreams.

I keep those goals near me wherever I am. The whiteboard in my home office lists my writing goals for the year. The sticky notes program on my computer desktop reminds me every time I turn on my laptop. The row of post-its on the bottom of my work computer helps keep me on track when I’m on several different deadlines at once. I believe in taking methodical approaches to big goals. One step at a time.

Don’t believe me? Consider the “latte effect.” In the world of personal finance, the latte effect is used as proof that many of us can, in fact, afford to save up for a rainy day. If you buy a latte a day, five days a week, at $5 a cuppa, that’s $1,300 in one year. Save that money instead, and you’re off to a good start with your savings. In 10 years, you’ve saved $13,000—not too shabby. (I feel obliged to add a disclaimer. I am not Suze Orman and am in no way qualified to give financial advice.)

But imagine if we sat down and said, “I need to save $13,000.” That figure is overwhelming. Maybe 10 years (120 months) is overwhelming. If we think of it instead as $5/day, $25/week, it becomes tangible. Most of us will never hold $13,000 in cash. But $5 or $25 is far more accessible.

Whether we’re saving for a rainy day or writing toward a finished novel, we can use the same approach. The latte effect shows how a little bit of effort each day can add up to a decent chunk of savings over the long haul. What if we wrote 500 words a day or for 30 minutes daily? Over the course of a year, if we write six days a week at 500 words, that’s 156,000 words. Suddenly, writing a novel doesn’t seem so daunting.

I was drawn toward A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80) because it’s the “writing challenge that knows you have a life.” I can’t do NaNoWriMo because I’ve taught every fall for the past few years. And the last few weeks of the semester, the beginning of the holiday season, and the writing community’s version of the Insanity Workout don’t mix well. I still managed to write an estimated 125,000 words last year—and that’s not counting back-story, deleted scenes, etc. Little steps, big goals. So I’m hopping into ROW80 because it’s exactly my kind of challenge: set your own goals, and stick with them. It’s not a one-size-fits-all deal.

So here are my ROW80 goals. Feel free to hold me to ‘em. 😉

1.)  Write 3,000 words per week on Pierce My Heart. The story, which started off as a longer short story, is now a full-fledged novella. We’ll see where it goes from there.

2.)  Blog three times per week. Expect to see me on Wednesdays and Sundays for ROW80 check-in, as well as on Fridays.

3.)  Revise the Pierce My Heart synopsis. Don’t expect that one until closer to March, as I revise and expand the story.

So, now it’s your turn. What are your goals for 2012? How are you approaching them?

A New Critique Service for Writers:

So I just received word that YA writer and my crit partner Kathleen Foucart has unveiled her new website and her critique service is now open for business. Kathleen and I met in graduate school and have been critiquing each other’s work ever since. She is a talented writer and an amazing person, someone who’s well-read and who has the patience to follow a manuscript from the seed of an idea to a fully grown and well-polished story.

In celebration of the launch of her new website, Kathleen is offering a chance to win one of two free first-chapter critiques (contest open now through Oct. 6). So make sure to pop over, find out more about the contest, and say hi. Read more here.

In other writing news, when I’m not grading papers or writing/editing for the magazine, I’m making my way through revising Pierce My Heart. Grading papers reminds me of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Those mops keep appearing and appearing and appearing. This semester, papers seem to do the same thing. Thank goodness for pastries and coffee; they’ve seen me through plenty of cram sessions as a writer, a student, and a teacher!

I’m pondering jumping into the next round of A Round of Words in 80 Days. Kristen Lamb is offering a “Blog to Build Your Brand” workshop in October and November, and I’ll be doing that is well. It’s going to be a busy rest of the year, but hopefully 2012 sees me querying manuscripts. I’ll be querying Pierce My Heart, at minimum.

Side Note: The Autumn Reads Amazon gift-card contest is open through Oct. 8, if you’re interested.

And now…

This Week’s Dash of Awesomesauce: Cool posts from around the Web

Summer writing wrap-up and fall writing plans

So, as I dot the i’s and cross the t’s on my syllabus for the fall semester, I realize that I’m entering a time when my writing hours will be in short supply. And since a few golden leaves are starting to tumble to the ground, and my mums are offering up their yellow blooms, I figured I’d offer a recap of the year so far.

So, this year, I have:

  • Written a 100K 2nd draft of Blake and Zoe’s story, MADE OF SHADOWS. Don’t worry. Following drafts will be shorter. I’m already finding places to cut, but I needed to get it all down and sort it out later. This fall I plan to start revisions—putting me at draft 3 sometime in 2012.
  • Joined the Twitterverse and attempted to master the art of the perfect tweet. I’m still learning, but hey, I can now use “RT” as a verb.
  • Started blogging on WordPress in addition to my LJ blog.
  • And… last week, I finally got out the last few scenes in PIERCE MY HEART, a novelette-length story about a golden arrow and a murder in the realm of the fae. Hoping to get a finished draft of that one out by next spring. (At present, it’s weighing in at about 12K words.)

And my goals for fall:

  • Blogging twice a week. I might have to cut that back to once, but I’m going to try.
  • Revising one chapter per week of MADE OF SHADOWS. We’ll see how that plays out. Some scenes will undoubtedly call for more time and more extensive revisions than others. I’ll be sending it to crit group a couple chapters at a time.
  • Revisions on PIERCE MY HEART are also under way.

With all of the revisions, I don’t expect to have much time for new writing, though there are plenty of new stories jostling around, just waiting to be told. It’s sort of like the crowd waiting outside Best Buy at 3 a.m. on Black Friday. Every character just wants to get into the store to get their hands on a cheap DVD player. But my storytelling time, like Best Buy’s supply of discounted Black-Friday electronics deals, is limited.

Now I want to know what everyone else is working on this fall. New stories? Old ones? Revisions? Publications? Are you querying agents or writing synopses or outlines? Or, what are you reading? What are everyone’s fall goals? Do tell.

And now, for the first time ever…

THIS WEEK’S DASH OF AWESOME-SAUCE: Cool posts from around the web

Ilona Andrews: On Blurbs, Difficulty in Obtaining

A hilarious compilation of emails that reveals how NOT to go about requesting author blurbs for your next book.

India Drummond: Ordinary Angels Revealed

Follow India as she reveals her experiences in the world of small e-pubs, her foray into indie writing, and the cover for Ordinary Angels.

Kait Nolan: Why I’ll Never Unplug

Kait, on the role social media plays in fueling her writing career. And, in case you missed it, her YA novel Red is now available!

Turning points: Devoted pantser learns to plot (maybe just a little)

So, who isn’t trying to survive this week’s massive East-Coast heat wave? At least in Virginia, we have air conditioning pretty much anywhere you go. My parents’ (in western PA) only form of AC is a good breeze. Most of the restaurants there don’t even have air conditioning units. Hoping everyone is managing to stay cool.

As I complete draft 2 of Blake and Zoe’s story (a whopping 102K at present, but I’m already cutting), I’ve started to plan out my writing schedule/goals for the next year or so, one of which is a novella that’s been spinning in my head for the last few months.

That novella is the catalyst for this post’s title. I had been jotting ideas down for months in one of my handy little notebooks. Yesterday, I rewarded myself by typing out the bits and pieces of scenes for that novella. What emerged really surprised me. I realized that what I’m witnessing with this new story is a break from my writing process in the past, courtesy of the learning process I’ve gone through while writing about Blake and Zoe.

I found that, thanks to plenty of brainstorming, I had actually created a fully outlined plot without having to write a full draft or two to get there. I’ve always been a dedicated pantser, believing that my plots needed to unfold as I wrote—which usually meant I wrote sometimes hundreds of pages that would never be used. Lots of meaningless chatter on the parts of my characters.

My pantser approach resembled that Sidney Harris cartoon of two men looking at a chalkboard. “I think you should be more explicit in step two,” one of them says. Step two reads, “A miracle occurs.” (The cartoon is copyrighted, but available for viewing here). I’ve learned that my process works better when I’m just a tad more explicit about what needs to happen between steps one and three.

Now, my experience writing Blake and Zoe’s story wasn’t just about one novel; during the process, I developed an entire world where many future stories will be set. I met plenty of new characters in that world who have stories waiting to be told. But I also learned that I can, in fact, start out writing with a much firmer idea than I had in the past. As a result, I hope my first drafts will be more cohesive and more polished.

That doesn’t mean I know every detail of what happens. Sometimes I’ll know that x will happen. I don’t particularly know what shape x will take. I’ll say, they go to y, or they meet z. I haven’t figured out everything about where y is or who z is. But I have an overarching view of what needs to happen. I can discover the particulars along the way.

So, am I a reformed pantser turned dedicated plotter? Like many writers, I’m probably somewhere in the middle. Like most of us, I’m not where I started out a few years ago, just stumbling into a fictional world without a clue of what’s going on. My brainstorming process has grown stronger, and my desire to outline, however roughly, has increased. I’ll blame it on my own learning process, plenty of writing books, playing careful attention to the plot and structure of books I enjoy, and reading about other authors’ writing processes.

Recap of my “write-cation”:

Okay, so write-cation is my awkward-looking little word for vacation. It’s sorta like a staycation, but with a twist.

See, the whole idea behind a staycation is that you take a vacation but stay at home. Now, personally, I find it challenging. I don’t exactly live in a big city, and living in a small town means that you run out of things to do fairly quickly, and there isn’t much within driving distance. Add to that my restless tendencies and, you know, staycation is not exactly in my nature.

But write-cation, that I can do. So I took a week off from the day job to focus on finishing my current WIP. The target word count was 95,000 words. Now, I’m at 96,000 words. (I wrote about 4,000 words/day Tuesday-Friday, 1,500 on Monday.) But, alas, Blake and Zoe’s story is not done. I figure the draft I’m working on (2.4) will be slightly over 100,000 words. So, a little longer than expected, but not bad for a second draft.

So I’m considering my write-cation a success. Hopefully Saturday and Sunday I can finish up the remaining scenes. I also have some scenes earlier in the story that I need to revise to reflect some world changes that I made as I was writing. And then a big chunk of the story is going to my awesome-o critique partners, Kathleen Foucart and Amelia Ross.

Next week, I’m back to my regular work schedule, but I’m excited to start the revision process. Yeah, I can’t help it. I like revising. It’s the editor in me.

I have a few smaller works in progress that have been on hold and a couple of ideas for novellas that are begging to be written. Well, not so much begging as demanding. My fall teaching schedule will make it tough to pump out any large chunks of writing, but I see a lot of revision work in my future.