Look Back, Looking Ahead

December flew by, and it’s a little hard to believe we’re already a few days into 2014. I don’t really do New Year’s Resolutions anymore, other than a bit of goal setting. But I wanted to look back first and how I did in 2013 with some of my writing hopes.

I had a pretty ambitious list of things I hoped to accomplish last year, and while I crosses several things off that list, live managed, as it often does, to shorten the amount of time I had to devote to writing. Looking back, the first half of 2013 seemed to go pretty much on track with what I’d planned, but once the end of the summer rolled around, everything pretty much was dead in the water.

September is often a rough month anyway, because I always end up staying late at school trying to get beginning of the year things squared away. This year was particularly brutal in that regard. While I wasn’t technically getting home any later than usual, the change to middle school really shifted my daily routine. I mean, I’m not a morning person to start with, and having to start an hour earlier than I’m used to completely threw me for a loop. I’d say I didn’t get in to the swing of the new schedule until maybe mid-October. Beyond that, while I often have papers to grade in the evenings and on weekends, I generally can leave work at work. Not this year. With the adoption of the Common Core modules (and I’m teaching both Math and ELA), there’s a ton of prep work that needs to go into every lesson. So rather than stay at school until 6 or 7 at night, which was not out of the realm of possibility, I packed it up and brought it home to make my worksheets and SmartBoard lessons at home.

Instead of writing, unfortunately.

Thank God for the monthly Book In A Week challenges that CNYRW puts on. Otherwise I’d have nothing done.

So my writing goals sort of tanked through the end of 2013. Where does that put me now?

Currently, I have the historical fiction “magnum opus” part 1 undergoing a beta read with an online critique buddy I connected with through an RWA University class in October. I’m hoping it will be ship-shape enough to start submitting again by the end of February or March. I have a pretty good handle on where to go with it, in the event I decide to self-publish, but I still want to give it a few rounds with some small presses and agents first. I finished the chick lit romance and have that pretty well squared away. Opening chapters are currently being beta read by my good friend and fellow author Shelly Hickman. I’m hoping to sent that out for submission by the end of February. And the historical romance is about 10k words from the end of the first draft. I would love to get it wrapped up, edited, revised, and polished in time to submit it to RWA’s Golden Heart Award this year. And if the world is nice to me, I want to start revising and editing the historical fiction “magnum opus” part 2 this summer and get it out for critique.

On the personal front, there are a couple major things in the works for me and my husband. If everything falls into place, as we hope it will, 2014 will definitely turn out to be a pretty big, life changing year for us!

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My November Goal

Once again, I’ve opted out of participating in NaNoWriMo. Not that I won’t be chipping away at a writing goal this month. It just won’t be the creation of a 50k manuscript in 30 days.  I’m hoping to finish the historical romance by Thanksgiving. I have about 15k to go.

I’m going to set a fitness goal for myself. I was doing pretty good with working out this summer, but once school started I got out of my routine. Initially I thought the new, earlier school schedule would be particularly conducive to staying on the work-out-wagon, because I would be home an hour earlier (thus working out an hour earlier, which would allow me to cook dinner an hour earlier, which in turn would allow me another whole hour before bed, even given the need to go to bed an hour earlier, with which to snuggle with the hubs or write or watch The Big Bang Theory or my new favorite show ever, Sleepy Hollow). But alas, thanks to a slew of things, Common Core ELA and math modules notwithstanding, I have yet to find that balance in my schedule.

But we’ve rounded the corner of Halloween, and now I’m faced with holiday eating time. Thanksgiving is a month away. Christmas isn’t far behind. There will be pies and cookies and other yummy things, and I admit that I have been naughty in the nutrition department.

My hope is that I’ll really be in a workable routine by the end of December, if not sooner, because it is starting to come together. In the meantime, I decided I’m going to use November to do Raw Rebecca’s 30 Day Plank and Squat Challenge.  I’m already pretty good at squats since the workout programs I’ve been doing for the past three years utilize them heavily in the strength training videos. Planks I’m not so good at. But the point of the challenge is that you start small and build up. I also figure these are exercises I can do in relatively short amounts of time. As far as cardio – well, I’d like to be able to get TurboFire playing again, or start another round of Les Mills Combat. But in the meantime, I’m on my feet pretty much nonstop from 7:45 to 1:45, and that’s not counting and average of three trips up and down the halls to the main office and faculty room. (Seriously, the main office on the complete opposite end of the building from my classroom. It’s a haul to get my mail.)

So that’s my November goal. What’s yours?

JulNoWriMo on the Road!

I have to start off by saying that I met my JulNoWriMo revised goal to get my historical romance up to 50k words.

How I got there is a convoluted comedy of errors.

The hubs and I just got home yesterday from a week and a half long vacation around New England, and since I anticipated having a nine-hour drive on the first travel day, I figured I’d get a lot of writing done. I’d managed to get myself up to about 42k words by Tuesday evening, and figured that with all that “captive audience” time, I’d have my work done before we ever reached Bar Harbor, Maine, and I could spend the rest of vacation enjoying the fact that a) I was on vacation, and b) I had met my goal.

This was not meant to be, however. My husband had an A/C inverter that was about ten years old. (Side note for those of you who don’t know what an inverter is, it’s this little gizmo that you plug into the charging outlet in your car (or cigarette lighter if your vehicle is that old), and the D/C power from your car’s battery is inverted into A/C power for any electronic gadget you wish to plug in). We’d used it before, but admittedly it’d been a while. I started off trying to work off my netbook’s batter, but because of the power save features the screen was too dim to see thanks to the glare of sunlight. So I set up the inverter, got my A/C power and brighter screen going, and went to town.

Only to discover in short order that, for whatever reason, the inverter was toast. It shorted out the fuse for that outlet. We tried it on another, wondering if it was just that outlet and we knew the other one worked. Shorted that one out too. So we had to make an unscheduled stop at the Walmart in Montpelier, Vermont, to buy new fuses.

Which turned out to be the wrong size. So we had to go to Autozone, and thankfully they had the right fuses, and my husband had to become a contortionist in order to get the fuses changed. Because I drive a Honda, and Honda doesn’t make anything like this easy.  He also bought a new inverter, which did not short anything out, and I was able to get myself within 4k of my goal before it was my turn to drive.

We camped in Maine, so there wasn’t much opportunity to do any writing. Plus, you know, there was all the hiking and whale watching and eating lobster. (Excuse me. Lobstah. Gotta say it right to sound like a “Bah Hah-bah” native.) However, we had a five hour drive or so to Newport, Rhode Island on Monday, so I hammered out about 3300 words. Only 700 to the finish line! But again, no time for writing in Newport. Too busy sight seeing and checking out Gilded Age mansions and carousing the length of the Cliff Walk.

Our last official stop on the trip was New Haven, Connecticut, and I told the hubs I HAD to get those last 700 words done. So once we got back to the hotel after dinner, he putzed around on the first “real” internet connection we’d had in almost a week while I went to town. And I blew that word count out of the water.

So I’m left with about 30k to finish before the end of the summer, and then I’ll let the inner editor out of her box. In the meantime…

JulNoWriMo goal met!

success baby

Adventures in Historic Sewing – Embarkation!

You may recall that at the end of my post about the War of 1812/Jane Austen Weekend at the Genesee Country Village Museum, I said that I was rather tempted to get into historical sewing. Or something to that effect.

Well…

Historical Sewing Patterns

Historic Patterns Ahoy!

I know what some of you are thinking. Aren’t you supposed to be writing? The answer is, yes, and I am writing. I’m about a third of the way through my historical romance (hush hush on the details of that for now!). Unfortunately, it’s slow going at present; I’m hoping to have some major breakthroughs over the next week in which I hammer out 5k+ words a day in order to reach my deadline. I’m not into the work count deficit too deeply – yet. And so far I’ve been able to keep my inner editor locked in a box and away from my first draft.

So, I admit it – the last thing I need is to take on another project of any kind. Between my JulNoWriMo goals, managing general stuff around the house, prepping for a move to a new grade level, and ten thousand other things I should be doing… Yeah, getting into historical sewing seems an odd choice.

I’m still doing it.

The final bit of motivation comes from the fact that I’m starting to volunteer at Fort Ontario, which, at various points, holds events for the French & Indian War, the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Civil War, and the standard, day to day depiction of the Fort as it was in 1868 (specifically). It would be awesome to have outfits for each era to wear for special events (or to be the most awesome, interactive tour guide ever.)

Of course, the trick is that I have to teach myself how to sew first. Hence the handy little blue book, The Lady’s Guide to Plain Sewing I from Kannik’s Korner, which has lots of nicely illustrated explanations for how to do proper basic hand stitches and so on. I bought a fabric quarter at Joann Fabrics, which I plan to use with light colored thread to practice (so I can see what I’m doing).

Beyond that, once I have the basic stitching down, I plan to make a couple Regency/Federal era items: a shift, corded stays, and a gown. I figure Regency is a good time period to begin with, since it’s a lot of straight lines and, compared to other fashion eras, doesn’t call for tons of fancy embellishment. And, since it’s a fashion era that predates machine sewing, the fact that I neither own nor have ready access to a sewing machine (not that I remember my 7th grade home-ec lessons on how to use one) is sort of a bonus. Since you all know how I am about historical accuracy and all…

The shift (I’ll be using Kannik’s Korner Woman’s Shift 1790-1820) is going to be my first project. Best to start from the inside out, right? Plus, it’s basically a lot of rectangles and is really simple.

From there I’ll move on to a set of corded stays, using Past Patterns #001. I realize that these particular corded stays are dated a bit outside the Regency era, but I’ve found several sources (and historic fashion bloggers) that site these as period appropriate. I expect this to be the most complicated of the three projects I’m undertaking, just because of the amount of cording. And I’ll either have to find appropriately sized busk and back stays to purchase, or use the included directions to make them myself (or beg the hubs to make them for me, pretty please with sugar on top).

Last, I’ll make a gown using this basic Sense & Sensibility 1804-1812 pattern. I haven’t done any real planning on this at all, other than the idea of using detachable sleeves to make the gown more versatile. We’ll see what happens.

So that’s it in a nutshell! The historical sewing ship is ready to sail – anchors away!

Writing Resolutions Check In

It feels like a really long time since I last posted, but I guess it’s only been a couple weeks.  It’s been a little crazy around here with finalizing grades and report cards and visits from family, and a slew of other things that may or may not come up in future posts.  It remains to be seen.  BUT in spite of the complete lack of sleep I’m running on – seriously, like an hour if I’m lucky and not all at once – let’s try and stay on topic today.

SMART goals

Whether in education or writing, your goals should be SMART!

At the beginning of January, I laid out eight writing related goals for myself, which I hope to accomplish in the 2013 calendar year.  Since we’re nearing the end of March, and thus the first quarter of the year, it’s worth checking int o see how those goals are coming along.

Goal #1 – Finish revisions to the HFMO Part 1, by the end of January

Status = DONE!  

Well, I do have a few people still giving me nitpicks on the proofreading side of things on Scribophile, but it’s nothing major and I can say I’m really very happy with how the revisions have turned out.

Goal #2 – Continue submitting HFMO Part 1 to agents and small pubs (ongoing)

Status = In process

I’ve submitted a total of six queries to agents and gotten three rejections so far.  The other three haven’t responded yet, and I need to sit down at some point this weekend and figure out if I need to follow up, if I’m still within their window of consideration, or if the lack of response means they’re not interested and it’s time to move down the list.  I’ve been a bit lacking in submitting, I admit. I guess I just got so caught up in working on Goal #3 that I lost track of where I am in Goal #2!

Speaking of…

Goal #3 – Finish Chick Lit Romance  first draft and distribute to critique group(s), by the end of April

Status – In Process, finish line in sight

The fact that the Central New York Romance Writers holds a monthly “book in a week” challenge has really helped the CLR along.  Usually I’m a very linear writer, but I did jump ahead a few weeks ago to work on a scene I wanted to share at critique during our March meeting.  On Sunday I finished up Chapter 12, out of about 18 or so that are planned, and while it’s very rough, I’m quite happy with the bones of it.  I feel like I’m on track to finish by the end of April, if all else goes well.

Goal #4 – Finish Historical Romance (HR) first draft and distribute to critique group(s), by the end of August

Status – Development Hell

This project hasn’t seen the light of day since the mid-October, even if I have played around with plot outlines in my head.  Originally, it was going to be a short story (or rather, a long story) of about 15k words for an Avon Impulse submission call, but I didn’t get it done in time despite my best efforts.  I’m hoping to give this the bulk of my focus over the summer, especially if I can get the CLR squared away and make myself write an extended synopsis.

Goal #5 – Revise/edit/submit at least five short fiction pieces, by the end of August

Status – In Process

I submitted a creative non-fiction piece last month but it didn’t make the cut.  To be honest, it’s a piece I probably shouldn’t have submitted, in hindsight, because there really is no good market for it.  But I have two other shorts almost prepped – one should be polished up enough for submissions within the next few weeks.  I had hoped to get two stories submitted by the end of March, but time didn’t play well with my plans (see the opening paragraph).

Goal #6 – Begin revisions to HFMO Part 2 and distribute to critique group(s), by end of October

Goal #7 – Research self-publishing options by the end of December

Goal #8 – Look into necessary steps to start up proofreading/editing services, by the end of December

Status – In Limbo

All three of these goals are on a back burner that isn’t even lit right now, though I have started mulling over them.  I’ve gotten a couple requests to continue with the HFMO, so depending on how the CLR and HR go, I might tackle the revisions to Part 2 early.  I’ve also started studying up on the proofreading/editing services that are available out there, as well as what sort of courses I might want to consider taking if I can get such a business off the ground.  And the self-publishing info is almost landing in my lap, thanks to an upsurge in news articles on the topic, as well as some information shared by fellow CNYRW member Jen Talty about the self-pubbing process these days.  I will have to pick her brain if I get closer to the self-pub decision.

So that’s where we stand at the end of March!  I wish everyone a happy and blessed Easter weekend, and if anyone is traveling, may you reach your destinations safely and return home rested and restored.

New Year’s Writing Resolutions

In general, I don’t “do” New Year’s resolutions.  I’ve had years where I’ve made lists of grand goals and ways in which I was going to completely change my life, but by the end of February it’s all pretty much fallen by the wayside.

Come to think of it, I’ve only had about three resolutions, ever, that I’ve really stuck to.  Last year, I resolved to get healthy and fit, which involved monitoring what I was eating and trying to stick to a semi-regular workout regimen.  And you know what, I did it.  Did I hit my weight loss goal? No.  But a year later – a year that included two months when I wasn’t even allowed to workout by my doctor’s orders – I’m only 4 pounds short of my goal.  So that’s not bad.

The other two resolutions I’ve managed to keep in my life were writing related, and I think dated back to my 2005 resolutions.  I had started writing the sequel to the “magnum opus” when I was in college, and it was fluttering about in limbo until I sat myself down and said, “Look.  You need to finish the draft of this thing in 2005.”  And I did.

That same year, I said I was going to go back and start the rewrite of the “magnum opus”, and it didn’t look good for a while. Mainly because we weren’t talking about just revising.  We were looking at completely scrapping the original MS and starting over. But literally on New Year’s Eve, I wrote the first sentence of the first draft of the rewrite.

Seven years later, that rewrite is in the revising/editing/submitting stage.  It’s scary. It’s awesome. It’s scarily awesome.

So really, other than my healthy lifestyle changes, the only resolutions I can seem to keep relate to writing.  And I’ve learned that those goals can’t be ridiculously grand and must be revisited periodically.  So here’s the list of writing resolutions for 2013:

  1. Finish revisions to the HFMO (that’s Historical Fiction Magnum Opus, in case you didn’t figure it out already) Part 1, by the end of January
  2. Continue submitting HFMO Part 1 to agents and small pubs (ongoing)
  3. Finish Chick Lit Romance (hereby referred to as CLR) first draft and distribute to critique group(s), by the end of April
  4. Finish Historical Romance (HR) first draft and distribute to critique group(s), by the end of August
  5. Revise/edit/submit at least five short fiction pieces, by the end of August
  6. Begin revisions to HFMO Part 2 and distribute to critique group(s), by end of October
  7. Research self-publishing options, just in case, by the end of December
  8. Look into necessary steps to start up proofreading/editing services, by the end of December

See, giving myself deadlines right there in the resolutions is going to help. If I get to the end of February and it looks like #3 and #4 won’t happen, I can adjust.  Et cetera.  You get the gist.

By the way, in case you were wondering, I’m in Submission Limbo right now.  I blame the holidays – Christmas got the better of my time management.  But my first submission to an agent ended in a form rejection.  Via email, within three days, so it was a little like ripping a  Band Aid off.  I’m okay with it – I was aiming pretty high with that first query.  After all:

“Aim for the moon. If you miss, you may hit a star.”  ~ W. Clement Stone

Warning: Now Entering the Submission Zone

In September, I took another leap of faith and submitted my historical fiction “magnum opus” (part one, anyway) to the Historical Novel Society Award contest. The long list of winners was supposed to be announced today. I haven’t seen anything on the website, but since I didn’t hear anything, I assume I am not on the list.

At the beginning of November, I had sort of set a goal for myself to finish revisions to my MS and start firing it off to agents and small publishers.  I really couldn’t do anything until I heard (or didn’t hear) about the HNS Award long list, because you weren’t supposed to make changes to your submitted material while it was under consideration. But as this week crept along and I realized I probably wasn’t going to get an email telling me I made the long list of contestants, I decided I’d get my rear in gear and get those submissions out.

Well, it’s November 30th at 10:53  p.m. EST, and that hasn’t happened yet.

That’s not to say I’m not ready to do so.  I am.  It’s just that between all the stuff that happens in an elementary school in the month of November (report cards, parent conferences, etc.), I got a little bit behind.  Throw in Thanksgiving, and it’s just a ridiculous month to try and get anything productive done.

Hence the reason I, yet again, decided to skip NaNoWriMo this year.

So I didn’t meet my submission goal in the least.  But I promised myself I would send out at least two submissions this weekend.  Only two, you ask?  Well, I figure if I spread out my submissions, rather than sending out dozens at once, I’ll better be able to keep track of what I”m doing.  Because I’m anal about this sort of stuff and have a spreadsheet that needs to be meticulously maintained.

I’ve submitted before.  The magnum opus, in its awkward, melodramatic adolescence, was submitted to two different small presses when I was a freshman in college.  Yep.  Li’l old 19 year old me send that awful manuscript out into the big, bad world of publishing.  Both obviously rejected the MS, but one sent me a personalized letter that pointed out both strengths and weaknesses in my work. It really is what ultimately made me realize I needed to completely rewrite the sucker.  12 years later, it’s almost ready to spread its wings.

Additionally, I have a couple short stories slated for revisions, which I plan to submit as well before Christmas.

I hope, anyway.  Ultimately, you don’t know what your MS will do until you bite the bullet and send it out there.  During the inevitable wait time following said submissions, however, I make no promises about retaining my sanity in this particular realm.  There may be fretting and obsessing and wringing of hands, possibly some gnashing of teeth.

But that’s part of being a writer, isn’t it?