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?

Highlights Fiction Writing Contest, 2011

Hey! Highlights Magazine has announced their 2011 theme: a fictional story of an embarrassing moment. (My, don’t we all have a few dozen of those kind of stories to send in?) Stories due at the end of January. The three winners will be announced and published in their June 2011 magazine.

Here’s the link: http://www.highlights.com/highlights-fiction-contest

Clinging to What We Want

 Literature Blogs

In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving from the fourth week in November, as President Abraham Lincoln first set it, to the third Thursday in November. This was done to give more buying time for Christmas and boost our nation’s economy. It was moved back to the fourth week a couple of years later. Today, however, there is no need to move holidays around. Christmas lights and Halloween decorations together are not an uncommon sight, presidential degree or not.

I can’t do much about boosting the economy, but I do know about things I would like to have and have already started a Christmas list. Most of my suggestions come from book stores, of course.

When our first-born was about 18 months old, we were going through a store. He was strapped in his stroller. Suddenly, he did something he had never done before. With a lightning reach, he grabbed and clung to a pillow. It was the front and backside of a beaver, printed on cloth, with the word “smile” on its T-shirt. Our son didn’t say anything, like, “Want this.” He just grabbed and hugged tightly — a man of action.

With this think-of-what-I-want season,  besides the biggies (love, joy, peace, faith, hope, family), I allow myself to be selfish and think of  some things I’d like. Besides a few simple material things, what I want to cling to is the freedom and time to write. Writing (and reading) would be my pillow with a “smile” on it.

NaNoWriMo Starts Next Week/ Next Month

 Literature Blogs

I know several people who will be participating this year in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writers Month). It is a great writing challenge and discipline. I’ve known about this group since its second year, and now this will be my second year participating. (My user name there is SandyCarl, if anyone wants to buddy me. Don’t forget to send me your UN as well, because it doesn’t automatically reciprocate.)

Last year I was more prepared for it, doing lots of research ahead of time. However, this year, particularly this month, I was working on finishing up a WIP before NaNoWriMo started, so my writing focus has been on that project. I’m afraid my head is still there in those revisions. I hope I can compartmentalize enough to work on two projects at once. I used to do this freely — work on two or more writing projects at once. I would switch when I got bored, or hit a plot block, etc. Lately, though, I’ve been focusing on getting one story ready to completion for submission before working on another.

Does anyone else work on more than one project at a time? Do you find it helpful or distracting? I’ve done it both ways. I’m sure either is a better way. Just keep on writing (and revising and submitting).

Good luck to all NaNoWriMo-ers! On your marks… Get set…

Tight Writing

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I must gather my thoughts (and notes) from this past weekend’s SCBWI-MI writers conference. Lots of great stuff to allow to soak in. I’ll pass on my notes soon. In the meantime… We all hear about how important it is to have tight writing. Here is an excellent example:

A university creative writing class was asked to write a concise essay containing these four elements:
1) religion
2) royalty
3) sex
4) mystery

The prize-winning essay read:
“My God,” said the Queen. “I’m pregnant. I wonder who did it?”

SCBWI-MI Fall Writers Conference, Part I

 Literature Blogs

Our SCBWI-Michigan Fall Writers Conference is going on this weekend. I am commuting since it is: 1) close to where I live; 2) cheaper than staying there; (Those reasons should probably be reversed, but I’d sound too cheap if I wrote it out the other way.) and 3) I get to see my husband, and sleep in my own bed, actually sleep during  conference! Nice.

Our speaker for Friday was fantasy author Cinda Chima. She spoke about fantasy. (Surprise.) She directed us to: Why write fantasy? What are the categories of fantasy? And, what is magic? To greatly summarize her talk, she said that the elements of fantasy are character, setting, plot and magic, with magic being why it is fantasy, and the first three elements being the reason why others would want to read your story.

I do enjoy live writing conferences. It has been wonderful (as I anticipated) to see all my writing friends whom I only see at conferences, and some I’ve only known via the internet. I was also able to eat dinner with spot-on author-speaker, Darcy Pattison. Words flow from her mouth like diamonds. I was in a workshop with Darcy several years ago, and have her Novel Metamorphoses book, and get her Fiction Notes. Since I’d invited her to this conference, I didn’t expect anything less than diamonds.

Last night, I also had to privilege to introduce myself to Tor Senior Editor, Susan Chang. I was the one who invited her, too, to the conference, so naturally, I was looking forward to meeting her and listening to her pearls of wisdom. I’d heard many wonderful things about Susan pre-conference. Face-to-face (even for a minute) has been a thousand times better. First impressions are very… impressionable. She is gracious, knowledgable, reasonable, an excellent listener, quite charming, and (I’ve been told) humorous. (No, I am not buttering her up! She truly is quite nice.) I look forward to her talks today and tomorrow.

My guess is that I will not post again about the conference until Monday. Need to focus. On to the writers conference.

Pre-writing, Raw Writing, Revisions

 Literature Blogs

I’m working on a new story, started a couple months ago. It takes up a lot of my thought time. I’m rather anti-social right now, even when it comes to posting on my writing blog. It’s as though all these other things in life are merely interfering with what I am passionate about, and what I can’t stop thinking about. I’ve done pre-writing, outlining, know where the story is going. I’ve done some raw writing — love doing this rambling, care-free part of writing. And, because I have been submitting chapters to my critique group, I have also had to work on revisions. Sometimes I find that all three of these writing stages (pre-writing, raw writing, and revisions) go on interchangeably, like a wild writing dance. I just hang on to my partner (the story line); sometimes I lead, and sometimes the manuscript leads.

So now I’m at about 35,000 words, with some chapters merely book-marked with a paragraph telling what goes on there. If I were a more disciplined writer, or a writer without a critique group to hold me accountable each month, I think I’d write out the entire story in one shot. But then, perhaps I’m not that disciplined writer. So I pre-write, raw-write, then revise and re-write until the story is finished. Dry to talk about, but exciting to do. Off to write.

August Writing Challenge Followup

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YIKES-A-ROONIE! I just realized today that earlier this month, I put out an August Writer’s Challenge of writing 10,000 Raw (first draft) words by September first. How you doing? Surprisingly, I may make that goal. I know I have nearly 10,000 words started on a new YA (young adult) fantasy, but I’m not sure if I’m going to leave in certain bits to make it into a MG (middle grade) story or not, yet. I THINK I wrote nearly all those words this month, but I may have started in July, too. I’ve been a tad bit scatter-brained this summer.

Has this summer been crazy for other people as well? Family, travels, cleaning oil off of turtles… well, maybe everyone hasn’t been doing that last one, but I’d encourage you to help if you can… heat, humidity. There are lots of summer distractions for writers.

So… how have you done on the August writing challenge?

No more excuses. There are still six days left in the month. Get writing, already!

Writing Sensory Images

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Today may prove to be a record-breaking heat day for this area. I’ve closed all the windows to keep in the early morning coolness, but haven’t yet turned on the air. It just seems too early in the year to do so. Besides, I find a bit of perspiration and being uncomfortable helpful to me as a writer.

Once, I was writing a chapter about kids traveling through a desert. The more I typed, the hotter and more thirsty I became. There I was, typing on the computer, while sweat dripped off of me. I kept thinking, “Wow! I must be one terrific writer to imagine things so vividly that I’m physically getting hotter and hotter.” I’d been typing for a few hours, closed up in the den, when I finally got up to take a break and get a drink of water. It was only then that I realized it was 100 degrees outside, and I hadn’t turned on the air conditioner.

Did I turn on the air conditioner at that moment, you ask? No, I did not. I finished the chapter first, taking note of all my hotness and putting it into words.

Fat v.s. Overweight and Obese Characters

 Literature Blogs

Being a writer out of my home leaves both eating and exercising at both the top and the bottom of my list of things to do when I’m not writing. HOWEVER, good news: I’ve lost 5 pounds in the past 2 weeks, and hope to continue on this downhill trend. For the first time in my life, I’m counting calories and am disciplined with my exercise. Yeah, me.

Times are changing.

This week I heard some disturbing news. It has to do with the amusement park ride, “It’s a Small World” in California. Seems the ride kept breaking down. They finally discovered the reason: the average weight of the visitors has… er… grown over the years since it was first built. This general increase in weight by the riders has caused the bottom of the boats to scrape against the machinery moving it along, causing the ride to malfunction. What a sad, sad, sad state of American affairs we live in these days.

I’ve also noticed a change in vocabulary. Doctors aren’t allowed to say “fat” any more, or they can get sued. We are either “healthy, overweight, or obese.”

This week I watched a show from the 1970’s about a military school, and each of the young men looked about the weight of a fifth grader of today.

So what does all this mean? Can we or should we write about children or adults who are… um… abundant in figure? If we don’t write about children or adults who have “more” to them, then are we writing about the real world today? Or should we remain in our fictional dream of thin? Now-a-days, actors and actresses who want to maintain a “healthy” look must go to the gym for 2-4 hours a day. Whatever did we do back then, when we were thin and didn’t go to the gym all those hours?

I hate worrying and wondering about this. But what about the characters in my stories?

Hmmm…