Writing When You Don’t Wanna

This week I signed up with Book-in-a-Week to force me to be accountable to others about writing on my WIP. Each writer sends a page-goal for the week, and then every night participants report how many pages they’ve written, culminating on Sunday night with the total pages for the week.  Sometimes, without others saying, “How’s the writing going?” I can be quite lazy or find about anything else to write about or think about or do than work on my WIP. Even though I’ve not met any fellow BIWers face-to-face, it’s still a nice push to hold me accountable to produce something this week, or make me feel guilty if I didn’t reach my goal.

Mind you, some writing days flow like warm, sweet honey, during which I can crank out 2,000 words in a day with no problems. And then there are other days (like today) when getting 250 words, or one page, completed is a struggle. It’s not like I’m stuck in a plot problem. It’s not like I don’t know where the novel is going or what’s going to happen. I just don’t wanna work on it.

I suppose writing is a lot like dieting. Instead of losing pounds, you’re trying to gain word count. Dieters may put signs on refrigerators or keep written track of every single calorie intake. Writers also may put signs up, like sticky notes on computer screens or at the breakfast table. We can also record every single word written in one day to mark the progress.

Whatever method works for you — having other writers give you a push, putting up reminders for, or anything else — just write! So quit reading this, and guess what you’re supposed to be doing now?

Happy 2015! New Year’s Goals

I stopped making resolutions years ago. Now I make goals. That way I don’t break them, I just may not reach them. It seems gentler.

This year I plan on revising two MG stories I wrote about 20 years ago and either subbing traditionally or self-publishing. For my Raw Writing (first drafts), I’d like to write more on the collaborative fantasy I’m writing with my son as well as the sequel to WAR UNICORN and work on another MG historical fiction. I also need to learn more about marketing and promotion. I’ve learned a lot these past two years, a whole lot, but it’s just a smidgen of what I should know.

Are these big goals to reach for 2015? You betcha. Will I make them? Find out in December. I write them here to make myself accountable. Thank you for holding me accountable.

Your turn. What are your 2015 Writing Goals?

What is Writing – Publishing Success?

A writing friend recently called me successful. Her comment gave me pause. What is writing and/or publishing success?

I see author success in steps.

Step one: Write a good book. This involves taking classes, reading books on craft, attending conferences, webinars, workshops, joining critique groups – all to improve your writing. Every year you should be a better writer than the year before. If you’ve got a well-written story, you are successful.

Step two: Submit to and have agents and editors give you positive feedback about your work, even if they reject you as client or for a manuscript. When your story makes it through the initial reader, through the editor, through the editorial group, and to the acquisitions group, this all indicates that people in the publishing industry verify that you have been successful with step one. If traditionally accepted, follow that route, and I’d strongly recommend it.

If wanting to pursue self-pub, follow the next steps.

Step three: Partner with an awesome cover illustrator. Sales rank has proven that fresh covers make a difference even when there is no text change. You can judge a book by its cover. Traditional presses can pay $1,000 – $5,000 for a single cover illustration. That’s out of my price range. But if you know an illustrator whose work you admire, negotiate for a reasonable fee. Never accept an offer for a free cover. There could be legal and relational repercussions in the future. Finding a good illustrator match is success.

Step four: Learn how to self-publish. There are entire books on this subject. I could list a few hundred tips here, but it would be like a flood gate opening. Read as much as you can about how to self-publish. If this is the route for you, then do it. Having an ebook, or holding a physical copy of your book in your hands with your name on the cover, this, too is success.

Step five: Book sales indicate success. If only friends and relatives are buying your books, your success is limited to who you know. To me, when one stranger buys my book or does a review, this is success. To sell books, learn about marketing and promotion. Again, many books on this subject. Read. Read. Read. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Repeat what works and embrace your failures. I spent $92 on gas alone for a far-away book signing and sold a mere three copies of my book during the signing. I didn’t get paid for those books, not until, according to their contract, all their inventory of my books had sold, which they never did because they went out of business and donated my other 17 copies someplace. I can only hope that “someplace” wasn’t the dump. What is marketing success to me? Marketing success is when I sell books.

Step six: Write another book. If you make millions of dollars from your first and only book, good for you, but that’s not truly literary success. Being able to be creative enough to write more and more good stories – this is success.

Step seven: Having the strength and endurance to repeat these steps with each book, and to convince your friends and family that you really do have a job which takes up your time – this is success.


(Success to the successful thistle sifter.)

New Year’s Writing Goals and Self-Publication

I didn’t complete a single writing goal from last year, except consistently blogging. Mind you, I did work on several writing projects, but circumstances and family and my own health issues (including blame-it-on-the-meds) seemed to butt their way into my writing life. However, it’s the end of December and beginning of January. I can’t help but perk up. This is such a hopeful time. Daylight is even starting to lengthen. I know there’s no control over an editor or agent picking up a story, nor making best-selling lists (giggling behind my hand), but I usually can control what and how I write, and normally my writing goals are very pie in the sky.

So, this year’s writing goal is modest, and one I hope to have completed by the end of January when I’ll make more! I plan to experiment once again in the writing field, this time by self-publishing one of my middle grade historical fiction books.

(Did anyone see the flash of lightning? Or feel the ground shake with thunder?)

That particular goal is shakin’-in-my-shoes scary for many reasons, but especially because for decades that was not a viable route for me to take.

Change. If I keep making my characters run head-on into things causing them to change their views or actions, why not do the same with the author as well? I’ll keep you posted on this shakin’-in-my-shoes adventure.

Do you make new year’s writing goals? Any out of the ordinary goals for you? I hope you meet them head on.

Wishing you all a merry writing new year.

NaNoWriMo… Again

Even with huge topics hovering overhead like Election Day tomorrow and Superstorm Sandy continuing to affect lives… it’s NaNoWriMo! Must talk. Must write.

I’ve lost track. Is this my fourth WriMo adventure? Of course, I could easily check the website, but I want to stretch my brain cells to remember how many times I’ve participated. Ah. Counting my NaNo novels: there was the unicorn story, the disappearing town story, and the logging story. Yep. My fourth time in. My difficulty in remembering is that outside of Novembers, I’ve written other stories or story starts; also, there have been family health issues, and our house getting smashed by falling trees seventeen months ago, and then there was my “I’ll never write another word in my entire life and I don’t even care, pthhhhhhh” period. Just a few normal bumps in the life of a writer.

I first heard about the National Novel Writing Month challenge (NaNoWriMo for short, or NaNo, or WriMo) when friends participated in it in 2000, its second year. The goal is to write 50,000 words on a new novel from November 1 to November 30, or 1,667 words per day. I “won” two years, which means I made the word count to 50K by the end of the month. NaNoWriMo is all about first draft vomit, but finishing a story is necessary in order to get those words down for a “completed” novel. NaNoWriMo gives your story idea a good start or with the rough draft completed, to drive that ugly thing on over to Revision Land a few dozen times.

This year, my NaNo attitude is different. Even though my critique group takes off during November from subs and critiques in order to write-write-write, I come into NaNo not feeling the pressure to be a winner. This year, my participation is all about giving me a kick in my “I don’t care” backside to write. For the record, my first two days were GREAT, and I exceeded the daily goal. But November 3 and 4, I was so time-crunched that I couldn’t write a single word on my new novel. I have some time to write today. In the back of my little writer’s brain, I have that safeguard that I came into November not to be a NaNoWriMo winner but to seriously make time to write. Or, as BIW (Book-in-a-Week) says: HOK BIC TAM (hands on keyboard, butt in chair, typing away madly).

I doubt I’ll make up those missed days to write 5,000 words by check-in tonight, but after I post this… IT’S NaNoWriMo TIME!

Good luck to you hundreds of thousands also participating.

2012 Writing Goals

Literature Blogs

Each January, I come up with writing goals for the year. Each December, I review them. My critique group does this with me. It holds us accountable at the beginning of the year, while they bring tears of laughter with “what was I thinking!” by year’s end. Still, I continue making them each year, simplifying them, and encouraging others to do likewise.

Although my critique group got an earful (“eyefuls,” actually, since it’s an online group), I’ll sum up my goals here into just two: 1) finish seven stories (four of them MG; three which are significantly started); and 2) submit when appropriate.

These are not your hopeful and difficult resolutions to break. They are goals to reach for, and ones which I believe I can make — that is, unless another catastrophe blows our way this year. These goals do not include related reading I’ll do (e.g., fictional books in my field, books on craft, research, etc.), or life goals (quit eating chocolate, run five miles a day, lose 600 pounds, etc. — nope, those actually be resolutions, not goals).

So… what are your writing goals for 2012?

May this year be the year of reaching them all.

Write Every Day… or Take a Guilt-Free Sabbatical

Literature Blogs

I’ve done it… for the most part… write every day. I don’t always write on my WIP, but I do write every day. Still, somehow this advice always gnawed at me. Perhaps it is my Unorganized-Organized lifestyle. I’m excellent at organization. Seriously. However, my time-attention-span limits my interest. Like cramming the night before for a college exam, I can go full steam to finish a rough draft of a novel, or revise one, or put together a talk, or send postal letters to people.  But always, I have several (writing) projects going on at various stages of completion (with some “completed” until editor or agent tells me otherwise).

So, because of various reasons, I recently found myself on a writing sabbatical. I didn’t even keep up with my blogs. (Shame on me… or not.)

Two months ago, a critique partner from long ago encouraged me to submit one of my Sitting-Till-I’m-Motivated-To-Again-Send-Out novels. I could see her wisdom of timing, and of her faith in me. I thought about it. But I still didn’t write (nor rewrite, nor revise, nor even pick the novel up for a peek). Then, last Monday another writing friend emailed me about an on-line agent contest that day — to sub the first 250 words of your finished MG or YA novel. I subbed the first page of this written-a-while-ago story. It was only after I pressed the send button that I looked at my novel’s word count — about half what is expected for a YA. Completed novel? YIKES! I figured I’d best break out of my sabbatical.

On Monday, I printed off the novel. I looked over notes from previous critiques. I dug out my research notes. I did some more research on line. I made a list of characters and their connections to each other, along with biographies. (<– Although I do that now with my stories, back then I just did research and wrote the story.)  And while I was doing all this, I realized that not only was the story actually pretty good, but I also got very excited about it. My mind was churning. Thinking. Thinking. Thinking.

On Tuesday, I wrote an additional 1,100 words, all of which brought up a very interesting plot twist. (The original story now seemed bland without this addition.)

Today, I wrote another 1,600 words, including some revisions, and it’s not even noon.

I still have some more words to write to bring up that word count, but I’m hoping to have that done by the end of this week.

My writing sabbatical is over. I’m not only interested and excited about my story, I’ve set myself manageable goals to get it done. I don’t know if Monday’s on-line agent contest will produce any interest for a contract, but in a few days this story will be hot.  Was my sabbatical worth it? You bet! I’m tackling this project with an enthusiasm I’ve lacked for a while. Plus, that enthusiasm overflows into other aspects of my life.

My advice: It is okay to take a guilt-free sabbatical. Yes, write every day. Yet, there are times when you need to step back in order to go forward.

Wordsmithing in Verse

 Literature Blogs

At first I thought this goal of writing a poem a day during National Poetry Month was just another writing challenge. Then, I thought writing them was lofty, poetic, oh so literary. Then, I panicked, because I know I’m no poet and couldn’t tell good from bad. I can’t even rhyme. I craved to give up this challenge after the first few days. After all, I didn’t even have a Poetry Month Partner to encourage me along the rocky way.

I’ve found writing poetry HARD. Writing good poetry takes talent. But if I fail in this challenge, then I fail as a writer. Why? Because if I am unable to pick my words well in short focused pieces, how can I choose my words well in larger works? Word detail is vital. Accent, tone, and each syllable is important. What an awareness! I’m thinking that every novelist needs to engage in poetry writing for a time.

My Tools of the Poetry Trade: Usually I write with keyboard beneath my fingertips. But in this month-long experiment (well, only a week so far), I’m finding myself using pencil and paper more than any other time. I write down snatches of ideas for poems. I use the eraser a lot. Revisions take on an entirely new dimension. I also use a printed Thesaurus. I haven’t done that in decades. Lately, I’ve lazily depended upon computer-generated words. Soon, though, I may come to the thinking that even using a Thesaurus is lazy.

The very interesting thing I’ve concluded now is that I’ve also found that writing poetry is FUN. There are so many venues. I’ve written sentimental pieces, silly ones from a child’s point of view, love songs, nature and gardening prose, couplets, snatches of ideas. The variety of possibilities is nearly endless, and best yet, I am not limited. I am no longer scared to try wordsmithing in verse. I’m thinking next time National Poetry Month rolls around, I may focus more, like write 30 limericks about nature. Surely, just for the sheer weight of my words, there will have to be one or two which is audience readable.

Onward to engage in my poem of the day.

2011 Writing Goals

 Literature Blogs

Long ago, I ditched the resolutions bit. Could never keep them; often broken by the end of the first week of the new year. So I started setting goals. Goals are much easier to reach, especially when taken in baby steps, e.g., not a vague “lose weight” or “lose 30 pounds,” but rather, “lose 5 pounds by February 14.” Ah, sounds like a goal I could reach.

So it is with writing. Set goals you can keep, then re-evaluate and reset them in summer.

Like my friend Rose, each year I try to simplify my new year’s writing goals. My general (did you hear “vague?”) writing goals are to read, write and submit. More specific is to revise two novels, send them off, and write two more. At this moment, I have no idea what the two 2011 new novels will be about. Isn’t life exciting?

So what are your new year’s writing goals?