I doubt this will be my last post of the year (I certainly hope not!), but I thought it was as good a time as any to look back at what I’ve done this year.

That’s right: I was catching up on my Word Count Countdown spreadsheet and realized just how much I’ve gotten accomplished since Jan. 17.

  • 185,287 words written
  • Wrote one complete series-length manuscript (during NaNoWriMo), finished up one that started the year 1/3 finished, expanded and edited two others; and wrote about 1/3 of my second single title
  • Sent out countless query letters and got a few nibbles; haven’t landed an agent yet, though.
  • Finaled in the FCRW Beacon contest (waiting to hear on the final results).
  • Prepped two Golden Heart entries (one in single title contemporary, one in series contemporary)
  • Started — and finished — NaNoWriMo
  • Volunteered to judge the GH (am waiting for a judging packet now)

I feel like I’m finally on my way. And I owe it all to the encouragement of my NARWA sisters, the gals at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood and, of course, Jennifer Ashley, the speaker who somehow lit a fire under my butt at the January NARWA meeting.

Thanks, guys. May we meet on bookstore shelves!

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 — 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 — or all — of them.

Let the organizing continue! 😉

Sadly, not much writing has happened since Wednesday (and that writing didn’t count toward my Word Count Countdown, because it wasn’t actually writing on any of my WIPs).

This type of limbo is much more fun!

I’m at a certain point: Finished MS but no query or synopsis — and since our NARWA meeting next Saturday is on the dreaded synopsis, I’m kind of trying to hold out before working on one of those.

The query and synopsis on “Blind Date Bride” are mostly finished, but I’m still a little scared to send that one out there. I did get a rave review from one of my NARWA sisters, who described it as “delicious.”

With a review like that, why am I not sure? It’s probably plain old fear of rejection — again. I’ve already gotten tons of rejections on Brad & Erin’s story, so why would I expect this one to do better?

Well, it was written much later. Brad & Erin’s MS was my first, and even though I’ve edited it so much that parts hardly resemble the original draft, it could be that it’s just not good enough. Pat said she can tell a huge difference between that one and “Blind Date Bride,” that my writing has grown and changed.

So maybe it’s time to bite the bullet, finish the query/synopsis and send it out there. It’ll immediately expand my agent pool, since this one’s a single title instead of category.

Today, my writing session at Starbucks allowed me to reach another milestone: Cassie & Dustin’s story is now the correct length for Harlequin American Romance.

They want 55,000 to 60,000. Cassie & Dustin now come in at 55,686.

That makes another completed first draft. I had to add about 10,000 words to beef it up to the meet the word requirement. (I’ll have to do the same thing to Bree & Mike’s story, too. Guess that’s next on my list.)

Also on my list? Printing this puppy out for editing purposes, but that will have to wait until I get my computer back. This one isn’t equipped to print with my printer.

Crap. It just hit me: Now I have to write a synopsis and query letter, too. Ugh. Can’t I just hire someone else to do that for me?

Normally, I sleep until at least 9 a.m. I have to, after working until midnight most nights and not getting to sleep until after 3 a.m.

This morning, however, I wanted to take advantage of “Free Pastry Day” at Starbucks. (It’s not often you can get something for nothing, after all.) So I set the alarm for 8 a.m., but beat it up by 15 minutes because the Boyfriend called on his way to work.

I was hangin’ at the local Starbucks by 8:30, low-fat banana chocolate-chip coffee cake in one hand, a Dark Cherry Mocha iced coffee in the other and the laptop balanced on  my knees.

Writing was slow at first. It got much easier to type once the drink and cake were gone — and that didn’t take long. Next thing I knew, I was on a roll.

I sat there for more than FIVE hours — breaking at one point for a pit-stop and a large iced green tea. But I didn’t want to leave. I was on a roll … such a roll that in five hours, I wrote 4,511 words …

… AND completed my rough draft!

Yes, I know I’ll end up changing things. I’ll have to go back in and layer in more emotions, etc. I have a tendency to rush my endings — I don’t want my characters to suffer very much.

But it still feels fantastic to have a completed MS sitting beside me as I type this.

As it stands now, “Beauty and the Ballplayer” weighs in at 209 pages and a little more than 56,500 words. That leaves plenty of room for editing.

Of course, if I start chopping, it’ll be short. But that’s another problem. I’ll cross that bridge if (when) I come to it. I’ve already started to wonder if there’s too much backstory in my first few pages …

Ah, the things I wouldn’t have even thought about a year ago! Growth is a good thing, right? 😀

I have another confession to make: I have trouble with my follow-through.

This is true both in life (I think it’s why I can’t seem to reach my goal weight or balance my checkbook) and in my writing.

More than one mostly finished manuscript languishes in my collection. Two of them that I thought were done are still several thousand words short of even the shortest category-length novel. (Being some of the first things I wrote, they’re also full of head-hopping and other annoyances I’ll have to go back and fix if they’re ever to see an agent or publisher’s desk.)

The ones that trouble me more, however, are the half-finished ones. I start out writing and for a while it’s great. The words are flowing and I’m in love with the characters and situations.

But then, I always hit a wall. I stop writing … for days, weeks, even months at a time.

When I go back to read through what I’ve written, I find myself in love all over again. The great metaphors and interesting characters make me wonder why I ever stopped writing it.

I think it’s because I get to what the gals at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood call “the sagging middle.” When I can’t think of what should happen next, I abandon the story and start a new one. And the result is a bunch of really good starts.

Because half-finished novels do me no good, I need to figure out how to get around this problem. I don’t want to write at a frenetic pace for a few weeks and then hit a wall.

I suppose plotting beforehand would help. (I tend to be more of a pantster, making it up as I go along.)

Writing something every day also seems to be helping. (I did finish “Blind Date Bride” because I signed up for the NaNo and started writing much more regularly.)

Any other suggestions? I’ll try pretty much anything once. (I plan to do some pre-plotting on my 2010 NaNo story in October.)

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!