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 β€” but I don’t. All I can do is try to set some goals for myself.

β€” 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?)

β€” 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?)Β Speaking of GH dreams, I already requested the week of Nationals as a vacation week so I can go when I final. πŸ˜‰

β€” Finish the first draft on Beth & Cody’s story.

β€” 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.

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

β€” 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.)

β€” 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?

 

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My friend Pat and I had a nice chat today. I made it to her place at around 11 a.m. and didn’t leave until close to 2 p.m. β€” and then only because I had to get ready for work.

We shared a lovely lunch (salad, spaghetti and chocolate chip cookies) and settled on “Li’l Slugger” … or maybe “Big Slugger.” What guy wants to consider himself “li’l” anything? πŸ˜‰

A good portion of our time was spent discussing various stories we’ve written (or are still writing) and it got me thinking about some nearly-finished manuscripts that I haven’t thought about in ages.

One is a Harlequin Presents type of story (high-powered businessman and successful author) with a twist: The two knew each other in high school, when he was an exchange student at her school. They started dating by graduation and she eventually transferred to university in London … but she up and left him with no explanation while they were in college. Now, four years later, their paths cross again when her book is being turned into a movie filmed at his hotel chain.

The other one is a sci-fi romantic comedy that I seem to recall having some very funny moments. I don’t think I’ve worked on it since moving from Indiana, so the details aren’t quite as fresh. I remember I got the Earth girl back to the planet of her hero, who’s as human as she is, just from a different galaxy, and then had no idea what direction to take it in.

I started the other one much more recently, basing it on characters in a collection of short stories my roommate and I wrote about life in high school (tentatively titledΒ  “High School Hell”). got it to a certain point β€” probably the point I abandon most projects, somewhere in “the sagging middle” β€” and stopped writing.

Anyway, before heading to work this afternoon, I dug them both out of hiding. (I was pleased to discover I knew where they were β€” one buried under a stack of magazines on the nightstand, one in a satchel I packed to save get out of the house in case of wildfire several summers ago when one threatened.)

I got sucked into the Presents, and plan to read more when I get back home. It’s pretty near the end β€” I hope, because I’m nearly out of story. It’s all hand-written, so I have no idea what the word count is.

So far, I like what I see. I may have to see about reviving it after Golden Heart season and the NaNo. (I already have my NaNo idea in place … it’s the story of Brad’s brother, Kenny.)

Of course, I still have Bethany and Cody to contend with. (Even though I still love the story, I think they’ve lost a bit of their luster … They no longer call me to work on their book. I’m probably coming to that dreaded middle again.)

In preparing “Beauty and the Ballplayer” to send to the friends who’ve volunteered to read it, I found something handy to share. It’s a free service that converts Word documents into pdf files.

Nice, eh? And so much easier than the way I thought I’d have to do it … laying it out in an InDesign file (all 205 pages of it!) and then converting from there.

For better or worse, it’s in the hands of three volunteers. I can’t wait to see what they think of it.

I know my writer friends are busy β€” some of them getting ready for the same contest I plan to enter. As such, they’re probably too busy to read anything of mine. (And they could well be my competition!)

With that thought in mind, I posted on Facebook that I was looking for friends to give me feedback on “Beauty and the Ballplayer.”

That was at about 1 a.m., andΒ I had no idea what to expect in the way of responses … So imagine my surprise when I checked my page this morning and had not one, not two but FIVE takers.

How exciting! Now I’m waiting for them to e-mail me so I can send them an e-copy of the story.

This is the tale I got a little feedback on from NARWA members at our July meeting. (That was the day we read through the first three pages of several stores submitted by members. It was anonymous, but we really didn’t have much trouble guessing whose was whose … I think we all confessed to writing our stories in the car on the way home. Ah, carpools!)

Still, I’m eager to see what other people think of it. Hopefully they’ll be able to point out any plot holes big enough to drive a truck through … Although I don’t think there are any of those.

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.

The old saw says there are three R’s β€” readin’ ‘ritin’ and ‘rithmetic β€” but I gave up on that last one years ago.

These days, I find myself struggling to strike the right balance between the other two.

I’ve heard many, many writers say that to write well, you must read β€” and read a lot. Different books, different kinds of books, things you like and things you know you should read just because they’re part of our collective consciousness.

My problem is, I’ve been spending a lot more time writing than reading. I have shelves full of books waiting to be read, yet I don’t read them. Instead, I’m writing, watching TV, blogging or surfing the Internet (sometimes all at once!).

I used to read all the time. I was one of those kids who went to the summer reading club at the library every week and checked out an entire box full of books. I read them all in a week and went back for more. Even when I first moved to Arizona, I read a lot. My roommate and I used to buy books and swap them all the time. I still have an entire bookcase full of her books that I haven’t read yet.

I lay the blame for my lax reading habits on the Boyfriend. Now that I have a man in my life, I don’t feel such a need to read countless romances.

I’m going to start making more of an effort. There are so many wonderful books out there, and I’m missing out by locking myself away in my own little world. (Besides, if I start to make a dent in my to-be-read shelves, I can cut back on clutter!) πŸ˜‰

What I’m reading now: “Blonde with a Wand” by Vicki Lewis Thompson. So far, it’s hilarious. The heroine, a witch, accidentally turns the hero, a player, into a cat β€” and then has trouble turning him back.

I just saw on amazon.com that she has another book in the series coming out soon (if it’s not out already). I think I’ll pick it up.

I’m going to make an effort to share what I’m reading here on my blog in the hopes that it’ll encourage me to read more. It won’t look very good if I don’t read more than a book Β a month.

On the writing front, my WIP is coming along quite nicely. It’s up to 52,300, leaving me with less than 7K to go.