goals

Going Zen or Fighting the Freak Out

on January 13, 2012

Seven weeks ago I submitted a short story to a publisher. I checked and double checked (and triple checked) to make sure I followed their submission guidelines exactly. According to those guidelines, their response time is six weeks.

See the math there?

So it’s a week past and three things are running through my brain.

1. Did they even get the submission???  Many agents/editors/publishers provide an auto-response when a submission has been received. If I were smart, I’d have saved this email. If they indeed sent one. Which I don’t know because my brain is a sieve and if they did send one, I didn’t save it. So I don’t know. But I’m trying to ignore this avenue.

2. Did they already reject me??? My spam folder is filled with 20-40 emails every morning and though I glance through all the “sent from” and “subject” lines before deleting, I can’t help but wonder if I might have missed this one. What if I was tired on a Tuesday and didn’t pay enough attention? What if they emailed for more information and I missed that too?? (I hadn’t thought of that until just now. Gah!) As you can imagine, I’m also trying to ignore this path to nowhere.

3. Perhaps they have an abundance of submissions and we did just have three holidays in a row so they’re probably just behind. (No explanation points required.) Now, this one makes the most sense. It’s logical and practical and, best of all, in no way evokes panic. Because I am a rational person (yes, writers can be rational) I am going to grab this particular wave and ride it smoothly along until the publisher gets around to responding.

I am choosing to be zen about this. Getting published requires determination, perseverance, skill, and talent. And a little luck. But perhaps most of all it requires patience. I can be patient. Sure I can.

Just ignore the twitch.

Letter To Me

on January 8, 2012

Dear Me,

So the brain went on sabbatical back around Thanksgiving. Party planning, holiday shopping, cleaning in preparation for a family visit. All of it sucked the cells right out of our head. But this isn’t the first time distractions have won a battle or two. The goal is to make sure they don’t win the war.

Time to get back in the game. The Christmas decorations are back under the stairs. The laundry is “almost” caught up. (Okay, that’s a lie. We’re not even close. Deal with it.) And best of all, we wrote a mini-mystery for submission to Woman’s World magazine.

Seven hundred words isn’t much, but it’s something. That story plus this blog means we have momentum. A tiny ripple that can turn into a wave. Don’t let it die.

Starting this week, we will be writing every night. Or editing rather. No excuses except maybe sickness. And that’s still a maybe.

This year is going to be a good one. Progress will be made. Substantial progress. If we type it, then we have to make it happen. No one can stand in our way but us. Now get the hell out of the way.

Sincerely,

Me

Where Did I Put Those Brain Cells?

on December 14, 2011

In recent years, I’ve learned that I actually do have limitations. For a multi-tasker/control freak, this was NOT an easy lesson to learn. I don’t believe this has always been the case since I had no problem keeping a multitude of balls, knives, and flaming batons in the air back in my younger days.

In my twenties, I could do anything. In my thirties I realized I’d done nothing in my twenties compared to what would be demanded of me in my third decade. Now that I’m turning forty (in two weeks – let’s not rush it) I’m afraid it’s all downhill from here.

In September, I finished my second full length manuscript. To do it, I had to block out everything else. No television. No reading. No free time. I’d say no social life but I don’t have one of those anyway. Then I had to prepare said manuscript for entrance in the Golden Heart contest. Again, I focused in and got it done.

Then the holidays kicked in. And the planning of my company holiday party cranked into high gear. But I still wanted to write a short story and it would be under 15K; I could turn it out in December and go back to revisions come January 1.

The problem is, my brain has not reacted well to this round of multi-tasking. In fact, she’s gone on strike. There is no focus. No retention of information. I’m not even sure she’s still in my head. It’s entirely possible she’s sunning herself on a sandy beach somewhere knocking back pina coladas and working her feminine wiles on some young cabana boy.

Which would mean my brain has been holding out on me for years, but since I can’t focus, I doubt I’ll remember to confront her about this.

The party has come and gone and I’m *this* close to being ready for Christmas. The house is decorated and the presents I do have are wrapped. I believe my brain is finally coming back. This morning I managed to cross four major items off my to-do list and still make it to the office by noon.

This is a good sign. Because it would seem when my brain goes on strike, it’s the writing (and blogging) that takes the hit. And that’s something I can’t afford to ignore. I’m tempted to add that Ginko stuff to my daily routine, but you know the old saying. I doubt I’d remember to take it!

Anyone ever tried focusing techniques that work? Would yoga offer benefits in this area? Meditation CDs? Maybe playing the sound of a waterfall in the background? I’ll try anything (except eating vegetables.)

Exploring Self-Pub Options

on November 16, 2011

I like writing shorts. I’ve submitted several 800 word stories to Woman’s World magazine and been fortunate enough to have one printed. (September 2010 – find the unedited version on the Short Stories page.) I’ve oft lamented that I’m not one of those mesmerizing writers with the gift for fluid, beautiful prose. My prose is more functional than fluid.

But functional comes in handy when you need to tell a story with less than 15K words. Some writers I know cringe at the thought, but not me. Why am I babbling about short stories? I’ll tell you.

A writer friend put a bug in my ear tonight. Why not put some short stories out there for the world? Not just on my blog, but self-published them.

I do not have a black & white opinion on self-publishing vs. traditional publishing. I embrace all the options and think every writer should get to choose for themselves which road to take. Not my place to judge either way. But let’s face it, the majority of successful self-published authors right now are those who made their name and established a base readership through traditional routes. Yes, there are the exceptions, but not many. Even one or two books traditionally published can give you a better chance.

Though I still intend to pursue traditional publishing for my novels, this short story self-publishing idea has merit. There’s just one problem.

Self-publishing scares the geewillukkers out of me.

The technical aspect makes me want to run and hide. I know my way around a computer and am pretty confident in my ability to learn just about anything. But I have to be SHOWN how to do things and unless I sit down with some formatting guru, I’m not sure how I’d figure this stuff out.

Doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try. Maybe. This idea literally came along moments ago so much more thought and investigation is needed. One pro for this endeavor is something I read an agent blog this summer. She said something like self-published work is the new query. Paraphrasing, of course. Couldn’t hurt to send a query with the bonus line “…and I’ve sold 3000 copies of my short stories on Smashwords.”

Anyone have any input on this? Tried self-pubbing short stories? Success? Not much? Would you do it? Am I the only writer feeling like she’s crossing this publishing pond one lily pad at a time and the dang pads keep moving or disappearing all together??

Now I KNOW I Can Do It

on November 1, 2011

Not long ago I figured out my average monthly word count is 15K words. At that rate, a rough draft would take five to six months to write, which isn’t good when you think of the months of revision to follow. I lamented on an earlier blog I would have to pick up the pace if I intended to make a go of this writing thing, though at the time had no idea if I could do it.

With the Golden Heart entry date looming, the word count on my Work In Progress (WIP) on September 1 was not looking good. I could see the precipice, but the hill was steep, covered by a Slip-n-Slide and littered with thorny cacti. What was a writer to do?

Step it up, of course.

In September I wrote twenty-seven thousand words. Now, that is no NaNo number (that being 50K in a month) but for me, a number to celebrate. I will make the Golden Heart deadline, provided writing the synopsis and re-writing the first 50 pages doesn’t kill me.

But more importantly, I now KNOW I can do this. I can hit a deadline. I can turn out words. I can build a story and trust the characters (and myself) to get it on the page. Revising it is another story. Or rather, another blog.

Have you stepped up to a challenge (like NaNo?) Surprised yourself? Got any tricks for synopsis writing? Participating in NaNoWriMo again this year?

The Ever Evolving Writer

on October 28, 2011

In 2006, I fell into this little group of Eloisa James fans via her bulletin board. They were called the Bon Bons and it was like an instant family. In the fall of that year, many of us Bon Bons partook in a little writing contest called Avon FanLit.

WritingAt the time, though I’d toyed with the idea for years, I did not see publication on my horizon. I played along, writing for fun, knowing nothing about motivation, story structure or a million other elements that go into writing a novel. Though a story idea came to me, I still told myself (and others) that I was just writing to see if I could do it. No lofty goals for me.

Less than a year later, I joined Romance Writers of America. Admittedly, because “everyone was doing it.” And I thought I was immune to peer pressure. (This is the same reason I joined Facebook all those years ago and look how that’s turned out.)

Golden-gate-bridgeBy 2008, I wanted to be published but was busy working on a college degree, being a mom, and wearing 473 other hats. I kept studying the craft, but little writing happened. Still, I attended my first RWA Nationals that summer. Again, because everyone was doing it. (What am I, thirteen?) Regardless of why I went, I think the bug took hold in that fine city of San Francisco.

In 2009, I wrapped up that college degree and set out to conquer my first MS. The learning curve was steep but I found my process, applied what I’d learned, figured out more crap I needed to learn, and met a self-imposed deadline with that MS, which I finished (rough draft) by June 2010.

Today that book is under the bed, but for all its flaws, I’ll always love it for being my first. In 2011, my horizon has shifted once again. Along this journey, I never intended for writing to take the place of the day job. The reality is, I’m a one income household with a new home and a preteen sporting shiny new braces. The steady paycheck and benefits are a must.

Dreaming-about-booksBut knowing the reality doesn’t stop me from dreaming. If you’d told me in 2005 I’d buy a house in 2010, I’d have laughed in your face. If you’d told me in 2007 I’d plan a chapter conference in 2009 while coaching a softball team and wrapping up a degree, I’d have suggested you cut back on the hooch.

And if you’d told me in 2009 that I’d long for the day I could be a full-time writer spending my days with words instead of spreadsheets, I’d never have believed it. But I believe it now. Not that it’ll happen, but that I long for it. And that’s enough. For now.

Need To Pick Up The Pace

on September 9, 2011

Writing journey I’ve been on this writing journey for just over four years. It took me two years to realize the first attempted WIP was never going to work, but I learned something from those pages and went into a new WIP with much enthusiasm. After five months of plodding along, I gave myself a deadline, dug deep, set a daily goal, and made it happen. Three years in, I had a completed rough draft.

Today that book is nowhere near done. *sigh* Revisions are HARD.

Because my writing has been so sporadic, thrown in with a full-time job, single-motherhood, and at one time a part-time college schedule (not to mention planning a conference and coaching a softball team) I’ve never been able to gauge my productivity.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not under the false hope I’m a fast writer yearning to break free of the trials and tribulations of everyday life. I’m a little saner than that. But I wasn’t sure what I could do with steady, uninterrupted work. And by uninterrupted I mean no classes, coaching, and kiddo for the summer. The day job has to stay.

Slika-Panic As with most writers, there’s a constant panicked voice in the back of my mind worrying the WIP will be lost. Something will happen. The file will become corrupt overnight. Or what if my laptop spontaneously combusts?!

To appease this voice, I back up to an external source, but I also email the file from my personal email to my work email every night. This way I not only have a backup copy readily available, I can write at work if the option arises. (It never does but a girl can dream.)

Using the files I’ve been emailing, I tracked my word count by date and determined I write an average of 10-12K words a month. What a letdown.

I’m proud of the 36K-some odd words I’ve managed to write since May, but in the grand scheme of things, and considering the months of revisions ahead, this number just isn’t going to cut it. I fully intend to have deadlines someday. Contractual obligations. And since I’m sure the day job will still exist even when the deadlines come into play, I have got to pick up the pace.

Bouncy Ball Losing sleep is not an option so this clearly comes down to better time management. And discipline. Less email and Twitter. Less channel surfing on weekends. More Butt on Ball, Fingers On Keyboard. (I bought an exercise ball to use as a chair at my desk. I need to whittle down the abs as I bulk up the WIP.)

I know many published writers turn out two (usually more) books a year while running a household, herding children, and bringing home a day job paycheck. HOW do they make this happen? Is there a fairy dust I don’t know about? Is cloning involved? And how long is the norm for writing/revising a book start to finish?

On The Road To A Smaller Me (and a Mea Culpa)

on July 5, 2011

I’ll get the mea culpa out of the way first. Last year when I attended RWA Nationals in Orlando, Twitter was all the rave. I had an account but wasn’t a fan. However, everyone around me was tweeting non-stop, which I found incredibly annoying. Why couldn’t they just enjoy themselves and take a moment to update their Twitter stream or Facebook status when they got a break?

 

As one who did not get to attend this year, my opinion has changed quite a bit. Not completely, as I still think it’s rude when you’re having a conversation with someone, attempting to look them in the eye, and they’re looking down at their phone. But I so appreciate all the participants who Tweeted speeches, workshops, spotlights, and the awards in real time.

 

It was nearly as good as being there without the travel and expense. And without the laughter, camaraderie, and buzzing atmosphere, but bits of that came through as well. So THANK YOU to all who took the time to let us live vicariously through you. I will not be such a spoil sport next year when I (hopefully!) get to attend again. I might even do some Tweeting of my own.

 

Now to the smaller me. The Romance Biggest Winner project is officially underway. As of today I will eat better, get myself moving, and support my teammates as much as possible. I’ve bought a scale, fruit, and salad mix. Anyone who knows me knows these things would normally never be on any shopping list of mine.

 

I cannot say I’m on a diet. This is something I want to maintain going forward so calling it a diet will mean going back OFF the diet when it’s over and that would be disaster. What I have to do is learn to cut back on the amounts and up the exercise. I’m not going to cut out pasta all together, or try to get used to skim milk and wheat puffs. I know I’d never keep that up. But I don’t have to buy cookie dough (unless I actually have a reason to make cookies), channel surf for three hours like a brainless zombie (while my “middle spread” gets bigger), or go back for seconds when I know I’ve had enough.

 

The project runs for the next six months and if you’d like to follow along, check out the blog for frequent updates. Ashley March is the mastermind behind it and from the looks of things, she’s going to be working like crazy to keep this thing organized. For that alone, I can forgive her for the spreadsheet from hell.

I’m Dyin’ Ova Here!

on June 28, 2011

Signing long shot For three years straight, I have attended the RWA National Conference, and for three years straight, I’ve loved it. San Fran gave me horrible jet lag, DC was spread out so far I think I walked a couple hundred miles in less than a week, and in Orlando I nearly melted.

But I still loved every minute.

This year, I had to make a choice. Did I want to go deep into credit card debt in order to attend in New York City? Mind you, I’ve never been to New York City and I was so excited about staying IN Times Square that I used an image from the hotel website for the desktop background on both my home and work computers.

I was going.

But then the time came and reality set in and it simply was not possible. I joked that it might be hard when the conference actually began, reading all the updates and all the fun online, but I was sure I’d be fine. I would still be attending a conference this year, that being Moonlight & Magnolias in Atlanta in the fall. That conference would be smaller and shorter and the big one – cheaper.

So really, I’d be fine.

But now the National conference is about to begin and people are posting pictures of the view out their hotel room windows and the people milling about in Times Square and talking about museums and Broadway shows and the dang thing HASN’T EVEN STARTED YET.

This is, perhaps, going to be harder than expected.

So, what to do? I’m trying to cope by writing, reminding myself how much debt I’m not accumulating, and concentrating on M&M as well as Anaheim in 2012. (Oh, I’ll be there. If I have to light that credit card up, I will be there.)

Stop_kvetching There are diversions such as the Not Going To Conference Conference over at Romance Divas forum. And Pitch University as well as Romance University make connecting with industry folks and killer workshop type stuff readily available. But there’s no meeting up in the bar or “Did you see so and so’s shoes?” or even “We’re going to face one more baked chicken dinner together!” kvetching.

I’ll just have to get in some extra kvetching in Atlanta. (Fascinated that “kvetching” is in my Word spell check dictionary. Huh.)

If you too are skipping the festivities this year, what are you doing to keep yourself busy? Any and all suggestions welcome. (I thought Twitter would be worse, but Facebook is killing me. I might have to avoid both of those this week.)

Using My Powers For Good

on June 24, 2011

Habits I have countless habits. Some bad, some good. I don’t bite my nails, but I bite my lip. I vacuum regularly, but I never make my bed. The list goes on and on. However, there’s one habit I have that could go either way.

 

I rationalize.

 

This habit has been with me since birth, I’m sure, but it became, shall we say, pronounced when I became a mom. When you spend all your time telling a smaller human being how to be a human being, you feel this oppressive need to be a good example.

 

But then you’re left alone and realize there is no one around to tell you what to do. No one for whom you have to be that good example. In fact, you can be a bad example because only the cats are watching and they’re not likely to put off something like washing the pots and pans one more night just to lounge on the couch with a bag of Famous Amos cookies. Or the equivalent of that in the cat world.

 

Not that I’ve done that. Ahem.

 

TheSkinnyDip4 Tonight, I rationalized big time. There’s a chain of frozen yogurt shops around my area, all carrying different flavors every day. On Facebook I can find out what flavors are where. The flavor I wanted, yellow cake batter, was only at the store that is about five miles (or more) from my house.

 

I really wanted that yogurt. But if I went home and ate a sensible dinner, I’d never go back out to get it. I could swing by on the way home, but that would require taking the more annoying, higher-traffic route and I didn’t want to do that. Then I remembered something. That shop is right by the library. The library where I need to return this audio book I checked out last week.

 

Rationalization achieved.

 

I had a reason to be over there. In fact, I would be killing two birds with one drive by returning the audio book AND getting the yogurt. So I did it. But then, while enjoying my yogurt on the drive home, I started to think. (Always dangerous.)

 

What if I were to use this power for good?

 

Typing What I really want right now is to be published. To do that, I have to write a really good book. Or two. Or ten. The only way to do that is to write every night, as much as possible. Really put my nose to the proverbial grindstone. I think it’s time to start rationalizing the missed television shows, the laundry still sitting in the dryer (might have already done that), and the cats sitting impatiently behind me waiting to eat.

 

All those things can wait, because I’m writing.