I can’t say this weekend has been perfect, but it’s close. Even though I was busy with the day job, I had a chance to get inspired again.

Last week was an “off week” for writing. I just wasn’t feeling it — not writing new words or editing already written ones … not any of it. I think I earned all of one point in the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood Winter Writing Festival. I used the excuse of “decluttering” my bedroom to avoid feeling guilty for this lapse.

But this weekend, my drive was renewed. Thank goodness for that! I only have one uncluttered surface in my bedroom — dresser No. 2.

The creative juices started seeping back on Saturday, while I perused the latest issue of RWR as I stood in a slow-moving line at Chipotle (the first time I’ve seen the line move that slowly there). Then I attended a book-signing for one of my NARWA sisters. Glynna Kaye‘s new Love Inspired release, “Second Chance Courtship,” is new this month, and she had a signing in Flagstaff.

Home from work on Saturday night, I opened my WIP file for the first time in about a week. I read back through a few pages … but still found myself stuck. Those juices weren’t quite flowing yet.

Lucky for me, I still had plenty of other things to do when I met with our chapter president, Anne Marie Becker, Sunday morning for a write-in at Starbucks. We chatted a little, about NARWA business and “Only Fear,” the book she has coming out in September through Carina Press. Then we settled down to work — her on suggested edits from her editor, me on self-editing my NaNo story, “My Fair Fiancee.”

Juices running at full force by then, I also read through another of the GH entries I was sent to judge (just one more to go!) and reviewed my query letter for “Beauty and the Ballplayer,” the contest finalist.

Now, after I finish this blog post, I’ll transfer some of my Kenny & Kristi edits to the Word file. I was editing the old-fashioned way today … on the printed page.

Seems I catch more that way — especially when I go through each page with a highlighter to find all those pesky, unnecessary adverbs. Some pages had an embarrassing amount. I blame the NaNo mentality (more words, more, more, more!)

Of course, without that NaNo drive, I wouldn’t have another completed MS, now would I?

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The January 2011 issue of RWA’s Romance Writers Report included an article titled “The Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective (Has-Been) Authors.” Although I can’t quite be a has-been when I’m still a never-was, it got me thinking about my own bad habits.

In the article, Diane Farr asks: “What bad author habits are holding you back?” The habits she deems ineffective are:

  • Greed
  • Laziness
  • Rudeness
  • Blabbing
  • Unreliability
  • Pride
  • Ingratitude

I’ve definitely been guilty of laziness, waiting for inspiration to strike. Why, I’ve gone entire years without writing because I wasn’t “inspired.” I started “Blind Date Bride” well before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and didn’t finish it until December 2009.

But that was the old me. Nowadays, I much more in tune with writing. In 2010, I completed a half-finished MS, expanded and edited two mostly finished MSs to the proper category length and wrote a 53,000-word novel during NaNo. And I did it all while putting together six issues of NARWA’s newsletter.

Yes, I still waste plenty of time online, playing on Twitter and Facebook … hanging out with my friends on their weight-loss blogs (or my writer friends on their blogs). But I no longer let that keep me from doing something writing-related.) There really are enough hours in the day, if I limit my time with Bejeweled.

As for the rest of the seven habits?

I certainly hope I’m not rude, although I haven’t attended a conference yet. I don’t know enough to be blabbing inside information.

I’m so reliable and set in my routines that you can almost set your watch by me. If I’m in town, I’ll be at Barnes & Noble on Sunday before work; I hit the Starbucks before work a couple of times a week; I stay up late when I get off work to write, blog, what have you.

Pride? Well, I am proud of the fact that I finaled in the Beacon Contest. (Still haven’t heard about final placement, though.) And if I final in the GH, I’ll be tweeting, Facebooking and blogging about the high for weeks, I’m sure.

But I don’t think my writing is the best thing since sliced bread. I know it needs work. In editing my NaNo novel, I’m finding a lot of room for improvement.

I hope I’m not guilty of ingratitude, either. I love the boost I get from my NARWA sisters and the gals at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood (whom I wouldn’t know if our president, Anne Marie Becker, wasn’t one of them). Writing friends I’ve met through NaNo, like Mallory Snow, have been invaluable, too. (Mallory helped me sprint through my 50K in November.)

If I haven’t said it lately, thanks. You all inspire me, teach me and support me every day.

In about 12 hours, I’ll be at my RWA chapter meeting. I’m definitely looking forward to it — all the more because I do not have to rush back to the office afterward.

That’s right: I have the whole weekend off. I fully intend to take advantage of it to spend lots of quality time with the Boyfriend (and hopefully sneak in a little writing/reading/editing time).

So far, the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood Winter Writing festival has been a great motivator. Today, I completed Goal 4 (I think): Reading an article in RWR.

My newest issue arrived earlier this week, and I was excited first to check out the revamped layout. (As a page designer, I’m more interested in that sort of thing than some.) The changes are subtle, for sure. I guess I was expecting differences a little more drastic.

Monday, I wrote nearly 1,000 words. Yes, I’m aware that’s a lot more than my 200-word goal. Tuesday, I printed out a copy of my NaNo novel for editing (and gave myself a point for it. Can’t do any editing on it if it’s not printed out, right?)

Wednesday, while the Boyfriend was playing tennis, I sat in one of my favorite Starbucks and read through the entire thing. I got caught up in the story at times, so there were pages without any editing marks.That’s what subsequent passes are for. 😉

On Thursday, I did some more writing on the WIP and got “Beauty and the Ballplayer” ready to edit. I also found this great article at Write It Sideways, about filter words that can weaken your fiction. I figured they’d be good to keep in mind when I’m editing.

Like I said, it’s been a productive week. I can’t wait to have another one!

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?

 

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!

It’s been more than 24 hours and I’m still not over the excitement of learning I’m a finalist in the First Coast Romance Writers Beacon Contest for unpublished writers. (You can see the proof here, in the list of finalists.)

This is especially exciting because it’s my first-ever contest final. Strangely enough, I almost didn’t enter the Beacon. I was already busy thinking about the Golden Heart. But when I saw the deadline had been extended and they were looking for entries in the category I had a manuscript ready in, I decided, “What the heck? Why not?” I had some extra money to pay the entry fee — and I’m glad I did.

The timing couldn’t have been much better: I got the call as I was walking out of the post office, right after shipping off my two GH entries (one of them being “Beauty and the Ballplayer.”)

When my phone started ringing, I almost didn’t answer it because I didn’t recognize the number. (Ah, the wonder of caller ID.) But, being certain it wasn’t a bill collector, I went ahead and picked up the call.

The first thing I did after getting off the phone — and squealing with excitement — was call our chapter president. Then I called another writer friend to share the good news … I also left the Boyfriend a voicemail and posted the news on Twitter and Facebook. I wanted to share it with the world — or at least my little piece of it.

Thanks to everyone who gave me their congratulations so quickly.

What’s next? The Beacon gives finalists a little time to revise before entries are sent to the final judges. I got my judges’ score sheets last night and have had a chance to start digesting the comments. Most were very complimentary … I guess that’s what happens when you’re a finalist! 🙂

I’m having a tough time switching out of NaNo mode to think about revising, though. I’m going to try to do a big push to finish NaNo in the next couple of days, giving me a few extra days to work before the revisions are due on Dec. 3.

I can do it — less than 10,000 words to go! (We’re not going to talk about the fact that I’ve had writer’s block today. That’s only a temporary problem. Heading to the Bux in the morning to get some heavy-duty writing done while the Boyfriend’s at work. I actually think better at Starbucks, I think.)