July 2010


Now that I’ve had time to synthesize my score sheets from the last contest I entered, I’m pleased to say I’m on the right track.

No, I did not final. The max score was a 161; mine was 130-something.

That being said, I wasn’t displeased with the results. That was my gut reaction when I read through the score sheets the first time; it didn’t change when I reread them a couple of days later.

I got at least a 3 (average) in every category. I also got plenty of 4s and even a few 5s.

I think I can safely say I’m on the right track. The judges liked the concept and at least one said they liked my writing style.

Now, all I have to do is revise, using the feedback to make the story even better. (Since it’s going to be a GH entry, I want it to be as perfect as possible … and the comments should help.)

Maybe I ought to take the hard copy of the MS with me on vacation so I can get started …

During our last NARWA carpool, we were chatting away when my friends decided I was organized.

My first thought? “Yeah, right.” I believe I said something like, “You wouldn’t say that if you saw my desk at work.”

That’s true. My desk is one of the messiest in the newsroom, with piles and piles of stuff. My bedroom is the same way: stuff everywhere. Of course, I do know right where to find most things, so I guess you could call it “organized chaos.”

And yes, I am that girl β€” the one who has an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of her word count progress.

I have to use that silly program somehow, since I paid an arm and a leg for it in my Office package. I bought it for the Word, but refuse to have TWO unused programs. Since I have no idea how to set up Entourage, Excel it is. I’ve even figured out how to create cool charts to show my progress.

Hmm. If that makes me organized, I’m guilty as charged. Especially now that I’m focusing on treating writing like my day job so it’ll become my day job, I’ve been keeping track.

And I have been busy: Since deciding last year to enter the Golden Heart, I’ve …

  1. Revised Brad & Erin’s story and sent out several queries on it. (Received one nibble, which resulted in a rejection.)
  2. Entered it in the Golden Heart, where it received solidly average scores.
  3. Taken part in my first NaNoWriMo, writing about 25,000 words.
  4. Finished the first draft of my first single-title length novel.
  5. Edited it into a second draft, written a synopsis and query and submitted it to a handful of agents. (Two wanted to see more.)
  6. Expanded Cassie and Dustin’s story to the proper length for category romance, editing and revising as I went along.
  7. Done the same for Bree and Mike’s story.
  8. Written about two-thirds of Meg and Matt, finishing a first draft.
  9. Crafted the dreaded query and synopsis for Meg and Matt.
  10. Started a second single-title story, a sequel to the first.

Wow, I have been busy. Four series manuscripts and one single-title … Now all I need to do is find someone who’s interested in publishing one β€” or all β€” of them.

Let the organizing continue! πŸ˜‰

Writers have to read, even if it means taking time away from writing to do it. I go through spurts of reading like a madwoman or writing like one. Rarely will I do both at once.

My book club just finished “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett.

Published in February 2009, it’s the story of three women β€” two black, one white β€” in 1960s Mississippi. They end up changing the world β€” or at least their small slice of it β€” with a book detailing the stories of the maids and families in their care.

It’s been gettingΒ  a lot of good press, and I understand why. It’s one of those stories that’s going to stick with me for a very long time. Powerful. Riveting. Disturbing to think that was the way things were β€” and not all that long ago.

I finished it in just a few days, reading early into the morning because I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next.

It’s not a romance, but it has a few tender moments. Other moments will break your heart or make you laugh out loud.

“The Help” doesn’t need a recommendation from little ol’ me, but it’s getting one anyway. If you haven’t already, check this one out. It might just change the way you see the world.

That’s approximately how much I’ve written on Bethany and Cody’s story … and I have yet to get them to the island so their adventure can begin. They’ve been taking a side trip, with Beth’s mom attempting a reconciliation.

I guess since I have a total of at least 90K words, I’m still OK. I know they need to make it to the island soon, though.

I’m headed off on vacation in a few short hours β€” to Texas, then Oklahoma and Minnesota β€” with the Boyfriend, his mother and his kids. (It’ll be the first time I meet them.)

Still, I’m taking the laptop and hope to find plenty of time to write while I’m gone. Maybe I’ll even manage to get Beth and Cody to Bora Bora!

I sure hope so.

It always amazes me how attending my RWA chapter meeting recharges my creative battery.

Sure, it means a long day for me. I usually don’t get to bed until at least 2 a.m., and I’m up before 8 on meeting day. We meet from 10:30-ish to 2 p.m. and drive an hour and a half back home. Then I usually have to head into work and put in a full day there.

But I wouldn’t miss it. The chats while we’re carpooling are a great way to get new insights. And the meetings themselves always serve up something useful.

This time, we had a group critique: Several members submitted the first three pages of their WIP. Entries were read aloud, anonymously, then everyone shared their thoughts.

There wasn’t a single one that didn’t intrigue us enough to want to read more. That, of course, begs the question: Why haven’t any of us wannabes made a sale yet? But that’s probably a question best left for another post (in which I’ll rail against the publishing industry that depends so much on sheer luck. You have to be in the right place at the right time and know all the right people. Your MS could sparkle like the Hope Diamond, but if it crosses the desk when the editor’s having a bad day, too bad for you.).

Sure, a few of them had issues: Too much backstory, head-hopping. But the only way to improve is to have someone point out where you need improvement.

Our members are great at offering the right mix of encouragement and advice. I think (hope) we all left with a warm, fuzzy feeling β€” and some tips to take us another step closer to the ultimate goal of publication.

For my part, I realized (with feedback) the new beginning works really well. It was also pointed out I need a solid description of my hero in those opening pages.

As a side note, I had no idea Matt sounded so arrogant. But when you read it aloud, he sure does. He doesn’t remain arrogant throughout the novel, though, so I’m not sure what to do about that.

Since those first pages are in Meg’s POV, maybe we can chalk it up to her perception? He’s not really all that arrogant, she’s just in a bad mood, so she sees him as more arrogant than he really is?

I spent most of today working on a couple of scenes from Bethany and Cody’s story … 3,115 words written. I was surprised again, though: Beth’s mother sounds like a guest on “Jerry Springer.” She must be from Southern Illinois! πŸ˜‰

It’s time for me to start polishing next year’s Golden Heart entries, though. My Orange Rose scores came back Friday. With those and Saturday’s feedback on the contemporary series story I want to enter, I’m ready to put the comments to good use.

Sometimes, all it takes is a little shove to get moving again. I received oneΒ  today, courtesy of one of my NARWA sisters.

Jacqui Jacoby was a guest blogger over at Seekerville. The topic? Surviving the Abyss. In it, she told the story of her lost year of productivity, sacrificed to the health gods because of a still-unidentified virus.

Now, I’m no stranger to lost productivity. In fact, until about a year ago, I may well have been the queen of thinking “I need to write” and then doing absolutely nothing about it. But I’ve picked up my pace lately, and am now entering contests, submitting queries and β€” most importantly β€” writing almost every day.

At least I was going like gangbusters until recently. The last month or so, since I hit my goal of writing 100K words by NARWA’s November meeting, I’ve been slacking again. I’ve only written about 8,000 words through most of June and into July.

Part of it is because I’ve been trying to get back into the swing of weight loss, and for some reason, I can’t seem to strike the right balance between the healthy lifestyle and my writing life. When I’m focusing on one, the other falls by the wayside.

I’ve also been in limbo: I’m waiting for responses to queries and results from a contest I entered. I’ve started work on a brand new story (Bethany and Cody’s tale), but it hasn’t yet taken off. (I think it’ll help once I get them out of Chicago and onto the island, but before I can get them to the island, I have to do at least a little research β€” and I’ve been putting it off.)

But Jacqui’s post today gave me the nudge I needed to do some writing. I realized how important it is to take advantage of every opportunity. So while I was at lunch today, I handwrote about a page and a half β€” and now I’m raring to get back to the computer to start writing again.

Thanks, Jax. I needed that!

I’m not surprised no one is reading my blog. Why should they when I haven’t been updating it?

I’m sorry to say there hasn’t been much writing going on this past week or so. (Ran into a little writer’s block early in the week and then spent most of my long weekend off computer shopping with the Boyfriend. Unfortunately, we were looking for one for him, not me. Ironically, the MacBook I’ve been coveting is listed as the Consumer Reports top computer β€” and the one he wants is under it. And he’s always giving me crap about Macs. Ha!Β  They’re better than PCs!)

I have been gearing up for my NARWA meeting this weekend. I’m looking forward to it. It should be a good one, with group critiques and a fun “share your best writing tips” session.

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