As many of you know, I’m proud to be a part of the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood’s Winter Writing Festival.

Sure, it hasn’t started yet. (The kickoff is Jan. 10.) And I just officially signed up here this evening. But I’m eagerly anticipating the kickoff — and I’ve been busy trying to craft a list of attainable goals that will still result in a big payoff when the party’s over.

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

— Write at least 200 words on Beth & Cody’s story OR

— Do intensive edit of at least 1 chapter of Meg & Matt or Kenny & Kristi OR

— Read one article in one of the many unread issues of RWR I have on file OR

— Write a blog post of at least 150 words for this blog, Love & Laughter. Posts for the weight loss blog don’t count.

There you have it — a list of simple and attainable goals that will still add up to big progress.

I may revisit this list again before Jan. 10 to tweak my options. But I think it’s a pretty complete just the way it is.

Any thoughts? What would you like to see me do?

A couple of months ago, I wrote an article for my RWA chapter newsletter about the Do’s and Don’ts of Setting Writing Goals. I thought I could use a refresher course before I craft some very attainable goals for the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood Winter Writing Festival.

So how does one do it? How do you keep going through writer’s block, the day job, life’s little interruptions? (Most of the content below is excerpted from the Nov./Dec. issue of NARWA’s newsletter, High Country Highlights.)

If there’s a key, it lies in simply setting the goal. You won’t get started until you have somewhere you want to go.

These goal-setting guidelines were originally set out in a “Do’s and Don’ts” list by the folks at Spark People, but they can be applied to writing just as easily as weight loss:

• Do create a plan. Don’t wait for “someday” to roll around.

Before I started to treat writing like my day job so it will become my day job, I had tons of story starts that I thought about working on but didn’t. I figured I’d get around to it “someday” — when I wasn’t busy with other things.

Well, believe me when I say “someday” never comes. If you don’t make writing a priority, you won’t get it done.

• Do start small. Don’t focus on too many things at once.

I’m struggling with this one right now. I have so many irons in the fire — writing about Beth and Cody in their island paradise, editing two Golden Heart entries and plotting my NaNo novel — that at the end of the day I haven’t done much of anything. I’ve probably written no more than 10,000 words in the last month. After cranking out 110,000 between January and July, that just seems pathetic.
This is as true now as it was back in October, when I wrote the article … though my projects have shifted. I’m no longer editing GH entries, I’m editing the NaNo novel — and still trying to get through the first draft of Beth & Cody’s tale. And I’m contemplating beginning the query process with “Beauty and the Ballplayer.”

• Do write it down. Don’t forget to give yourself a deadline.

“Deadlines turn wishes into goals,” the Spark People article said. Deadlines also give you something concrete to work toward. Just make sure it’s a deadline you can control. “I want to finish a 60,000-word novel in six months” is under your control; “I want to be published by the time I turn 40” is not.

• Do track your progress. Don’t fool yourself into failure.

I keep track of words written each day on an Excel spreadsheet. I also keep a list of agents I’ve queried and their responses.  My friend Mallory recently blogged about GoalForIt, an online goal tracking program.

I find the idea of GoalForIt intriguing, but it could prove to be too much of a   distraction for me. I can tell the days I spend more time playing online by the lower word count in my chart.

Why, oh why, can’t someone invent a program that beeps to remind you to get back to work every time you waste more than five minutes on Facebook or Twitter?

• Do find a support system. Don’t try to do it alone.

Yes, writing is a solitary pursuit. You can’t write by committee  — at least not well. You can, however, seek the company of like-minded people to keep you going when you feel like giving up. Attend your local RWA chapter’s meetings. Read and comment on your favorite writing blogs. Schedule a write-in at the local coffee house. Ask someone whose opinion you trust to read through your contest entry before you mail it off.

To wrap it all up: The secret to writing success is to make time to write. Set some small, achievable goals and start meeting them. With determination and a little support from your writer friends, your star will rise.

If I do say so myself, that’s some pretty fantastic advice. Now, I just need to practice what I preached.

Jan. 10 will be here before I know it. That means it’s time to craft my goals for the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood Winter Writing Festival.

But before I do that, I feel a need to create some writing resolutions for 2011.

2010 was a very successful year for me. I wrote more than 180,000 words, entered the Golden Heart in not one but two categories, successfully completed the NaNoWriMo with a 53,000-word story and scored my first-ever contest final.

In 2011, I want to build on that success and keep the momentum going. After all, I’m now less than a year away from the big 4-0 (the arbitrary date I set for myself to get published).

But how? That’s a very good question. I wish I knew the answer — but I don’t. All I can do is try to set some goals for myself.

Keep writing. I wrote 180K+ in year because I sat down to write most days. I can’t say every day, mind you. However, I did write more often than not. I treated writing like a day job … a part-time one, at least. I took myself to Starbucks (where, until July, I did not have access to the Internet. Am I the only one who thinks free WiFi at the Bux is a bad idea?)

Continue my search for the right agent. At our last NARWA meeting, I stated the intention to send out at least two queries a week. Hopefully my agent search will become easier in April, after I final in the Golden Heart. (A girl’s nothing without her dreams, right?) Speaking of GH dreams, I already requested the week of Nationals as a vacation week so I can go when I final. 😉

— Finish the first draft on Beth & Cody’s story.

— Edit Kenny & Kristi, my NaNo novel. I started reading through it again last week and still thought it was excellent … meaning, of course, I haven’t been away from it long enough to see its flaws yet.

— Take at least two online classes/workshops this year, so I can can continue to hone the craft.

Read more. Writers read. Conventional wisdom says you should read as many books in your genre as you can get your hands on. Now that I’m concentrating so much energy on writing, I don’t read nearly as much as I used to. BW (before writing), I could devour two to three books a week. Now, I’m lucky to finish two a month.

Hopefully, that will change soon. The Boyfriend is getting me an e-reader for Christmas. I’m hoping access to cheaper books will encourage me to read more. (Then again, I have shelves full of still-unread books, and that hasn’t been an encouragement. It just adds to the clutter in my room.)

Build up this blog. My weight-loss blog is moderately successful, even if my weight-loss efforts have faltered. It’s doing so well that I pulled in more than 1,000 hits for two of the last 12 months. Love & Laughter, on the other hand, gets between 100 and 150.

One big difference is posting frequency. Here, I’ve been lucky to post once a week. There, I sometimes put up multiple entries in a single day.

Any other suggestions for me? What about you? What are YOUR 2011 writing goals?

 

After reading my last blog entry, one of my friends from college messaged me with this bit of inspiration about giving characters reasons to love one another:

Love isn’t only about the hot sex – it’s about friendship. Cuz when the hot sex goes away (old age, car accident, ED), there must still be something there between them.”

Thanks to the part about ED, it cracked me up … but it also rang true.

I think, for the most part, my characters ARE friends first (well, except for Cassie and Dustin. They hate — and annoy — each other at first sight … and even when they’re totally in love, they still want to kill each other).

Brad and Erin start (before my book begins) as reporter-source; Bree and Mike are friends/coworkers (even though she’s supremely hot for his supremely HOT bod).

As for Kari and Damien, they start out as strangers who are trying to become friends (and lovers) despite the fact that they find themselves hitched.

I’m looking forward to my NARWA meeting Saturday (really later today, I guess — I really need to get some sleep). We’re doing synopsis-writing and characterization. The timing couldn’t be better, since I’m at a point where I’m thinking about the synopsis for “Blind Date Bride.”

I recently discovered the blog of Nathan Bransford — Literary Agent. He’s both witty and wise … and rumor has it that he responds almost immediately to queries, whether he wants to see more or not. I’ve yet to test that myself because I haven’t quite perfected my query for “Blind Date Bride” and he doesn’t do category romance.

Anyway, after reading his latest entry, “The Greatest Strength of a Writer: Willpower,” I was inspired.

The last line, in particular, spoke to me:

If writing is always fun, you may be doing it wrong.

So simple, yet so true. For years, I’ve been one of those “I write when the muse inspires me” people. As a result, I haven’t gotten much done. Several partial MSs lurk in my computer files — all about half finished.

Now that I’ve committed to writing more regularly, first preparing my Golden Heart entry, then in the NaNoWrimo and now through our NARWA Word Count Club, I’m accomplishing a lot more.

  • I entered a revised version of my very first MS (Operation Snag Mike Brad” in the Golden Heart, didn’t final and just found out my scores were solidly mediocre.
  • I wrote about 25K of the 40K I wanted to get done during the NaNo, finishing the complete MS in early December. I’ve done some revisions and just shipped off the first 55 pages to the Orange Rose contest. (Blind Date Bride)
  • I finished the first draft of another category-length MS. (Beauty and the Ballplayer)
  • I’m almost done revising and expanding the second story in my “Women of Willow’s Grove” series. It was about 10K too short for category romance … now it’s just about right. (It’s tentatively titled “Daring to Love,” but I’m thinking it needs a new title.) Next up: fixing all the head-hopping in the third book in the series, “To Catch a Wife,” and expanding it. (It’s also about 10K too short for category.)
  • I’ve started querying on my GH entry (receiving about 5 e-rejections in response to my e-queries). I also just finished a query and synopsis for “Blind Date Bride,” but haven’t started querying yet because I’m not sure it’s ready.

Whew! That’s a lot of work in the last seven or so months. And I owe it all to commitment. Sometimes I even sit down to write when I’d rather be doing something else.

OK, that’s rare. These days, I don’t want to do anything else. Our NARWA guest speaker back in January, Jennifer Ashley, lit a motivational fire under my behind when she said, “Treat writing like your day job and it will become your day job.” (You can read my post-meeting blog post here.)

Tomorrow is a day off from work. I’m planning to get in some more quality writing time … after I sneak in a workout. I’ve been neglecting my health/fitness goals lately and need to get back on track.

That whole “butt in chair” thing works in a healthy lifestyle, too — except it might better be phrased as “feet on pavement” or “butt in gym.” The point is, you have to do it regularly to get good results.

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!

With just a little more than 8,000 words to write to hit the 90K mark needed for a single-title contemporary, I’m finding words are just pouring out of my head an onto the page.

Where was all this enthusiasm last week, when I needed it to end the NaNo with a less-pathetic word count?

Oh well. If  I can keep this momentum going, I’ll soon be typing the momentous words: “First draft complete!”

How exciting that will be! I’ve never finished a full-length MS before. All my others are category length. I can’t wait.

First up? Setting it aside for a few weeks, at least, before a read-through. In those weeks, I’ll be starting to shop for an agent for “Operation Snag Mike/Brad,” the GH entry.

Now that I’ve decided to get my rear in gear, things are starting to happen for me. How thrilling! 😀