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!

I'm ready — are you?

So far, work on the NaNo novel is going swimmingly. Not only did I cross the 10,000-word mark today (11,087), my hero and heroine had their first heavy makeout scene (followed closely by their first fight).

The handy NaNo stats page assures me I’m making great progress, averaging 2,772 words per day:

Current Day  — 4

Total Words Remaining — 38,913

Days Remaining — 26
This is my favorite stat so far: Words per Day to Finish on Time — 1,497

That’s right. Less than 1,500. I no longer need to log that magical 1,667 words per day to hit my 50,000-word target. If I keep producing a few hundred extra words a day for the next week or so, I’ll be sitting pretty when those Thanksgiving holidays roll around.
On a somewhat related note, I find myself disturbed on two counts:
  1. I seem to end up writing some of my most sizzling sex scenes in a public place.
  2. My characters tend to get it on — at least for the first time — in a vehicle of some sort. (Today it was Kenny’s Ford Explorer.)

I guess that’s fodder for another post, though. 😉

That’s approximately how much I’ve written on Bethany and Cody’s story … and I have yet to get them to the island so their adventure can begin. They’ve been taking a side trip, with Beth’s mom attempting a reconciliation.

I guess since I have a total of at least 90K words, I’m still OK. I know they need to make it to the island soon, though.

I’m headed off on vacation in a few short hours — to Texas, then Oklahoma and Minnesota — with the Boyfriend, his mother and his kids. (It’ll be the first time I meet them.)

Still, I’m taking the laptop and hope to find plenty of time to write while I’m gone. Maybe I’ll even manage to get Beth and Cody to Bora Bora!

I sure hope so.

It always amazes me how attending my RWA chapter meeting recharges my creative battery.

Sure, it means a long day for me. I usually don’t get to bed until at least 2 a.m., and I’m up before 8 on meeting day. We meet from 10:30-ish to 2 p.m. and drive an hour and a half back home. Then I usually have to head into work and put in a full day there.

But I wouldn’t miss it. The chats while we’re carpooling are a great way to get new insights. And the meetings themselves always serve up something useful.

This time, we had a group critique: Several members submitted the first three pages of their WIP. Entries were read aloud, anonymously, then everyone shared their thoughts.

There wasn’t a single one that didn’t intrigue us enough to want to read more. That, of course, begs the question: Why haven’t any of us wannabes made a sale yet? But that’s probably a question best left for another post (in which I’ll rail against the publishing industry that depends so much on sheer luck. You have to be in the right place at the right time and know all the right people. Your MS could sparkle like the Hope Diamond, but if it crosses the desk when the editor’s having a bad day, too bad for you.).

Sure, a few of them had issues: Too much backstory, head-hopping. But the only way to improve is to have someone point out where you need improvement.

Our members are great at offering the right mix of encouragement and advice. I think (hope) we all left with a warm, fuzzy feeling — and some tips to take us another step closer to the ultimate goal of publication.

For my part, I realized (with feedback) the new beginning works really well. It was also pointed out I need a solid description of my hero in those opening pages.

As a side note, I had no idea Matt sounded so arrogant. But when you read it aloud, he sure does. He doesn’t remain arrogant throughout the novel, though, so I’m not sure what to do about that.

Since those first pages are in Meg’s POV, maybe we can chalk it up to her perception? He’s not really all that arrogant, she’s just in a bad mood, so she sees him as more arrogant than he really is?

I spent most of today working on a couple of scenes from Bethany and Cody’s story … 3,115 words written. I was surprised again, though: Beth’s mother sounds like a guest on “Jerry Springer.” She must be from Southern Illinois! 😉

It’s time for me to start polishing next year’s Golden Heart entries, though. My Orange Rose scores came back Friday. With those and Saturday’s feedback on the contemporary series story I want to enter, I’m ready to put the comments to good use.

No, I didn’t sell my MS … or even sign with an agent.

What I did do — no small accomplishment, let me tell you — is surpass my goal to write 100,000 words this year.

Yes, I said THIS YEAR — and it’s only June. Since NARWA’s word count challenge began in January, I’ve kept track of words written. My goal was to write 100,000 by our November meeting.

This afternoon, while sitting at Barnes & Noble, I hit 100,967. (I might not have been faithfully updating my “Word count countdown” widget in the sidebar, but I have been keeping track in my Excel spreadsheet.)

Thanks go out to Meg & Matt, Bethany & Cody, Bree & Mike and Cassie & Dustin, the characters that have helped me meet my goal. Thanks also go out to my NARWA sisters and the gals at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood, all of whom have provided support and encouragement. I hope I can return the favor.

Of course, I’m not going to stop writing. Unofficially, I think I’ll push to write another 100K before the end of the year. With Bethany & Cody talking to me practically nonstop, it’s entirely do-able.

I didn’t get much writing done Monday, but I did almost finish the next NARWA newsletter.

The only things left are the calendar, my editor’s note and a blurb on our chapter’s GH finalist.

I have a block on the editor’s note. That’s ironic, considering how much writing I’ve been doing lately.

Just wanted to stop by and give y’all a quick update. It’s time to update my “word count countdown” box, too. I’ve been neglecting it (but I have been keeping track in my Excel spreadsheet). It should be up to 70K+

There’s not much to report here. Despite having a wisdom tooth removed Monday, I’ve been keeping up with the writing.

Mainly, I’ve been busy exploring my hero’s reasons for stripping and my heroine’s motivations for wanting to be married by 25. (With one less wisdom tooth — I’m now down to one — I’m having trouble seeing any wisdom in either of their hangups.)

Bree & Mike’s story is now up to about 42,000 words, leaving me to add 13K more to get it to category length. It’ll probably take a couple more read-throughs to get there, but I’ll do it … and then all three of the stories in my “Women of Willow’s Grove” series will be ready for prime time.

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? 😀

The old saw says there are three R’s — readin’ ‘ritin’ and ‘rithmetic — 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 — 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!) 😉

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 — 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  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.

Thanks to inspiration that struck on the drive down to the Boyfriend’s, I ended up writing 2,595 words today.

According to the Excel spreadsheet I’ve been keeping, that’s almost the most words I’ve written in a single day. (Only one day is higher, with 2702.)

Now I’m that much closer to finished with this manuscript. Maybe I’ll even be able to finish before the month is out.

I still have at least a couple of scenes to write before I get to the dreaded Black Moment … and then I’ll have to make them miserable for a while. (I’m really not good at that part. I hate making my characters suffer … probably why I struggle with conflict so much, but that’s another story. I’ll get to that post soon, I promise.)