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Question for you: How do you find people you trust to read your MS?

I’m not necessarily talking about full-on critique partners, but just people who will read it and tell you what they like and don’t — without stealing your idea for themselves.

I know our chapter president sends it to friends and family. Another of our members uses her book club as readers.

I think it’s time to find more people to read “Blind Date Bride” — all of it.

So far, two of my NARWA sisters have read through the first and second draft. I used feedback from the first read-through to do some revisions, then passed it along to reader number two.

Now I’m thinking it’s ready for prime time … And that brings me back to my question: How do I find readers? (Guess that’s the $64,000 question, isn’t it … we’re all looking for readers.) 😉

I’ve been toying with the idea of asking for volunteers via Facebook … but is that a good idea? Anyone have any suggestions?

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Over at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood, my writing blog home away from home, I read a fantastic post the other day. It was all about what editors want from a category romance.

After reading it, I wonder if Brad and Erin’s story is as ready as I thought. I break nearly all of the guidelines:

  1. Stir internal conflict on EVERY page.
  2. Minimize secondary characters.
  3. Let your main characters be active.
  4. Get them together.
  5. Keep them together.
  6. Give them reasons to love each other.

Hmm. I already know the story is a little thin on conflict. For the first several chapters, the main one is Erin thinks she wants Mike to notice her but she’s starting to like Brad, too.

My secondary characters, including Mike, all play what may be too large a role. Not surprising, considering they each have their own story. Brad and Erin’s is the first in a series.

Are they active? I don’t even know how to start thinking about that. That means the answer is probably a big, fat “NO.”

As for getting them together, Brad and Erin don’t have a scene together until page 12 — and that’s after Erin has her first scene with Mike. And keeping them together? Well, they go out on several dates (including an ill-fated trip to Chicago for a concert), but there are plenty of scenes in between with one or the other talking to someone else.

Do I give them reasons to love one another? Well, they’re both good people, and fine upstanding citizens of these United States. And it goes without saying that they’re beautiful (most heroes and heroines are, after all). He likes her sense of humor and honesty; she’s attracted to his body and soul.

Hmm. That may also be a little on the thin side. I’m beginning to wonder if this book will ever sell without yet another overhaul … Ugh. That’s a horrible thought, not least of all because I’m way too invested in these characters. Of all my characters, Erin is most like me (education reporter with no luck in love — all me when I wrote the thing).

On the plus side, I thought of a way to make Meg & Matt’s story, “Beauty and the Ballplayer” more closely adhere to the guidelines I just discovered. I’m going to lop off the first several pages (which I’ve decided are all backstory, despite the fact that I love the first line:

Meg looked at the pregnancy test stick in her hand, hoping like hell she misinterpreted it.

The rest of the first few pages have her thinking about how, at 32, she’s too  old to be pregnant and alone, and about how her ex ran off to Vegas to become a professional poker player.

I think I’ll start with her and Matt meeting at the bar instead.

I figure there’s one sure way to beat Golden Heart anxiety: By keeping myself too busy to think about the elusive Call that I could get sometime Thursday.

That’s at least one of the reasons I’ve set down not one, not two, but THREE goals to accomplish before our next NARWA meeting. (Our chapter has a “goal book,” in which we write goals. The entry fee is $1 per goal, and if we accomplish our goals, we’re entered in a drawing for the goal book cash at the next meeting.)

The goals I chose are fairly straightforward:

  1. To finish the first draft of Meg and Matt’s story. (I’m so close it’s not funny. I figure the only way this won’t happen is if I get the Call and am too distracted by GH festivities to focus.)
  2. Send queries on Brad & Erin’s story to at least two more publishers.
  3. Write a synopsis for Kari & Damien’s story, “Blind Date Bride.

If that sounds overly ambitious, it’s because it probably is … but on its own, not one of those goals is too terribly difficult to reach.

I have less than 10K to write to finish Meg & Matt’s rough draft.

The query is written — all I need to do is find a few  more agents I want to query (and maybe re-do my synopsis. Those contest judges said there wasn’t enough conflict. Maybe I just didn’t emphasize the conflict that’s there enough in my synopsis).

The toughest will be to write Kari & Damien’s synopsis. They were the reason I signed up for the RWA Online synopsis writing class, though. I might as well do the work and get my money’s worth.

All these projects should keep me busy until our May meeting. If I hear from RWA on Thursday, great — maybe I’ll only get two of the three accomplished. But if not, at least I’ll have something to do besides sobbing into a vat of Ben & Jerry’s.

After all, a girl’s gotta have goals, right? 😉

I love attending my NARWA meetings because I always come back inspired. Today, as a carpool of one, I even got to plot out a couple of scenes in my head. I missed the conversation and companionship on the drive, but the thinking time was great — and it made the 90-minute drive fly by.

This is just a quick check-in, because I want to head home and write. Now that I’m done working for the evening, I’m free to try to recapture the conversations my characters had in my head.

Hmm. Perhaps I need to think about buying a tape recorder for occasions like this. 😉

P.S. Look for another meeting-related post soon. I’ll be listing the goals I set for myself before our next meeting, in May. It’s an ambitious three-goal list!

I’d call Day 1 of “Operation Treat Writing Like a Day Job” an unqualified success.

I spent about 2 1/2 hours finishing the read-through on my rough draft of “Blind Date Bride” and revised my query for “Operation Snag Mike Brad.”

So even though I didn’t get many actual words written, I did accomplish quite a bit. Lucky me, I’m done with work early … so it’s time to head home for more computer time. I may actually even write a few words so I can say I have a word count for the day.

I think I’ll try to write a couple of pages on Meg & Matt’s story tonight. Hmm. Maybe I need a title for that one. Can’t keep calling it “Meg & Matt’s Story” for the rest of my life! 😀

But first, I need some dinner. I started work at 3:45, and by the time I hit a breaking point, we were so close to finished with the Monday paper that I didn’t want to leave for an hour. That means now, I’m starved!

* * *

I’m back. Had a surprisingly filling baked potato topped with cheese, veggies, bacon bits and reduced-fat sour cream for dinner, then wrote some more.

Added a Word Count Countdown ticker from writertopia.com to my sidebar. That’s right: 307 down, 99,693 to go! (I’m stepping up for the NARWA Word Count Club challenge — 100K words in 2010.)

… Literally. I was unable to talk above a whisper yesterday. Even now, my voice is all scratchy and it hurts to talk.

Being without a voice gave me pause and made me think about what it would be like to lose my writing voice: Not much fun.

Some writers struggle to find their voices. Not me. I’ve always known where mine was. For as long as I can remember, people have told me I write like I talk. They can hear my “voice” in the words on the paper. In fact, I once got an e-mail from a guy who wanted to meet me because liked my  column in the newspaper. (No romance developed, but we became friends.)

Not much has been happening on the writing front. I’m still working on that query — I think the tables are about to turn so I can start kicking its butt. (About time. I’m tired of feeling battered and bruised.) I’m also about to print out “Blind Date Bride” so I can read through it and start editing.

Our NARWA meeting is a little less than a week away, on Jan. 16. I’m excited for that. It always gives me a writing nudge.

I only went to bed three hours ago, but when the Boyfriend called this morning on his way to work, I was too excited to go back to sleep.

Why? I finished “Blind Date Bride” early this morning. It was about 5 a.m. After an early night at work (due to the blizzard, we cleared the paper by 9 p.m. — why can’t we do that EVERY night?), I headed back to the house to write.

At first, I sat with the laptop on my lap while I watched TV. Then, at 11 p.m., the satellite dish went out. It was just me, the laptop and iTunes on the computer.

I was on a roll. Since Kelly helped me talk through my Black Moment, and I already knew exactly how I wanted it to end (with a wedding — a real one, to contrast with the TV-network-hosted one at the book’s start), I just kept going … and going … and going.

Like the Energizer Bunny, I wrote, until — at a little before 5 a.m., I thought the momentous words “The End.” 90,300 words, 334 pages double-spaced in Times New Roman.

My question? What do I do now? I’ve  been so focused on finishing this thing that I’m at a bit of a loss.

I think I’m going to set it aside for a few days at least, and then give it a good read-through so I can start editing.

Today, since I’m not driving anywhere, I bake! I have several batches of WW-friendly cookies planned. (Originally I’d planned to bake AND write. Maybe I’ll work on one of the other two WIPs on my computer … or start working on that query letter for my GH entry, “Operation Snag Mike Brad.”

So many options … and the rest of the week stretches before me, a “staycation” on my schedule. I’m off through the weekend. Woo-hoo!

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