Welcome to 2017

I hope everyone has had a fun and refreshing holiday season, whatever holiday(s) you may celebrate. My own holiday hiatus was insane, between work and writing and family. But now that the cookies are gone and the confetti has settled, it’s time to get back to business.

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And as usual, that means it’s time for the annual….

Goal Setting Post!

I took a quick peek back at my goal setting post for 2016 and found, well, I didn’t do so hot.

Resolutions and me tend not to get along well.

That said, let’s take a look at some goals for this year.

  1. Finish Sweet Somethings Book #4. It took me a while to really get into this last installment, despite the fact that it’s been plotted since, like, February (I went back and forth over whether Book 4 should have come before THE ONE I’M WITH, so I had both plotted way early on and sort of went “eeny, meeny, miney, mo” with them). I have a soft-ish deadline to get the draft to my editor by the beginning of February, so once again, this is a no brainer of a goal. It’s non-negotiable.
  2. Have at least one hour-long writing session a week. I’ve struggled to pin down writing sessions once September rolled around, when I started a new position at a new school. Much of my extra time has been spent building a kick-ass online course platform for my 7th graders. However, since I’ve streamlined a lot of how my in-school planning time is being spent, I’m doing less at home and more at work. So that’s helping.
  3. Peddle my post-Civil War historical romance. I did some serious editing over the summer, and still need to do some touch ups (plus write the damn synopsis and query letter). But once Sweet Somethings Book 4 is in the bag, I can devote some time to this project and start making the rounds with the manuscript.
  4. Return to the “Magnum Opus”. I actually spent a good chunk of time this summer looking at Volume 1 and marking some areas that still need a bit of spit and polish. And I spent a full day’s work just reading through the mess that is Volume 2 (OMG THE HEAD-HOPPING!!!!). So at least I’m up to speed on what I actually wrote…four years ago…
  5. Flesh out some short synopses for future project ideas. Several years back, I started compiling a list of novel ideas, but most have just the barest basics of a plotline. I’d like to sit down later this year and build on a few of the frameworks, in part to decide where to go next.
  6. Be better at promotional opportunities. This encompasses a lot of things. In addition to the standard stuff I do around a new release, I’m also going to start hitting up review bloggers, looking into getting print releases into local bookstores (and potentially setting up more signings), participating in local author events, and doing more online promotional events, like the Romance Writers Gone Wild Facebook event I did in November.

As far as writing goes, I think I’ll leave it at that. Yeah, a couple of those are repeats from last year, but I don’t think I’m being overly ambitious with this list.

2016 proved a very tumultuous year in Casa de Rowan, for a variety of reasons, but overall our year has us moving in a very positive direction as a family and professionally. I have high hopes for 2017 to continue in that same vein.

And just to get you all excited, Sweet Somethings Book 4, HE TAKES THE CAKE, is slated for a spring release. Lots more details to come, so make sure you keep an eye on my socials, the blog, and sign up for my email newsletter to stay in the loop!

Here’s a little taste to jump start your craving…

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Mmmm… Red Velvet…

 

Defining Success

On Saturday, Rhonda Penders, editor-in-chief at The Wild Rose Press, gave a presentation at this month’s CNYRW meeting that, among other things, provided some perspective on what’s happening in the publishing industry. Her presentation, from which I garnered tons of information and ideas, spawned a discussion among the CNYRW members about what constitutes success as a writer.

I think we can all be in agreement that the publishing industry has undergone huge changes over the past few years, for better and for worse. There are options available today – viable ones, even – that just didn’t exist five to ten years ago. Between the incredible uptick in indie publishing, the turn toward small presses that often seem way more author friendly, and the traditional agent-to-Big-6-publisher route, it can be a little mind-boggling to even decide what avenue to pursue, let alone determine what will define your success as an author.

Therein lies the key, I think, to determining the path an author needs to take. What is success? Is it landing a 6-figure publishing deal with Random House? Is it making enough in sales each year to let you quit your day job? Are you just looking to make some extra money doing what you love? Is it some combination of the two?

We can’t all be Dan Brown or Nora Roberts or J.K. Rowling. The law of odds, and the way traditional publishing seems to work, does seem to make it difficult to break out into New York Times Bestselling Author-tude. But maybe securing a publishing contract with a smaller press is what will equal success in your life. Or maybe perfecting your self-publishing process through professional editing and cover art services and a solid marketing plan, thus gaining a small but solid following, is enough for you.

You have to define what your goals are before you can determine the steps that will bring you success. You do have to do your homework, whether it means researching agents and how to properly query them, putting your manuscript in front of an editor who can help you fine tune (and fix up, if necessary) your work, or identifying how to run what amounts to your business if you decide indie publishing is the way to go.

For me, what is success as an author? I admit it – I would love to land a contract with a major publishing house. That’s always been the brass ring. But given all the options and combinations of possible avenues for publication, it’s also very tempting to pursue a path that would give me quite a bit more control over my writing career. From what I’ve read and been told, authors today are responsible with the vast majority of their marketing and managing their careers, so whether I go indie, work with a small press, or get that Big 6 contract, I’ll have to have a plan.

I don’t see myself leaving teaching anytime soon. But if the world was perfect and the right pieces fell into place, it would be pretty cool to be able to write full time at some point. So for now, my goal is to pursue a publishing career that lets me earn a little extra money doing something I love.

Ultimately, though it’s easy to get caught up in the quagmire of submissions, marketing, building your platform, and so on, you do have to write. Write what you love. Write what you want to read. Edit. Read good books. Write more. Stay passionate and ignore the naysayers who point out all the things that are “hard” about being a writer (as if there was every really a time when being a writer was easy).

Define success, and then work for it.

Lessons Learned from NaNoWriMo (vlog)

Did you survive NaNoWriMo?  Learn anything while you were at it?

Motivated, but no energy

I got this brilliant (okay, maybe I’m the only one who’ll think it’s brilliant) idea for a short-ish story about, oh a month ago. And I even set myself a deadline – because we all know how I am about deadlines.  I outlined about half of the story, though the other half is pretty well complete in my head, wrote the first scene…

And then sat on it till, oh, Sunday night.

Why is this bad?  Because the deadline I set for myself is October 13th.  Which is this Saturday.  Why?  Because there’s a bit of a contest/submission call-out I want to enter, and the deadline for submissions is October 15th.  So I’ve been furiously typing away for the past two days, determined to finish because my writing software says I’ll make it if I can hammer out about 4000 words each day.

No problem right?

Well, slight one.

See, I would totally have chalked this one up to the “oh crap I didn’t plan my time well at all” thing, as normally I spend 6+ hours a day teaching a bunch of 7 and 8 year olds how to, you know, read and stuff.

But then I had to have surgery on Monday – minor, everything’s good – and needed to take at least two days off work to properly set myself on the road to being mended.  And I thought, “Hey, I can get a lot of writing done!”

Well, yeah… About that…

Being semi-supine on the couch for two days (actually three, since I’m not quite feeling up to wrangling the second graders tomorrow) would contribute to a lot of word count bad-assery. At least, one would think so.  But though I’ve got this killer idea and lots of motivation to make it happen,  it turns out that even having minor surgery makes one tired, unable to focus, and

SQUIRREL!!!!

on the internet.

I shouldn’t complain too much.  Looks like I’ll be better enough to make it into work on Friday, and my word count stands at around 6500, which, according to my software’s calculations, is about a third of the 20k words I’m aiming for. So I guess we have to see what happens.

Discipline!

“Be orderly and disciplined in daily life, like a good bourgeois, so that I might be wild and violent in my art.” ― Gustave Flaubert



Earlier this week, I decided I needed to institute some self-discipline when it comes to my summer writing schedule.

Why?

Because this keeps happening:

And you can overwrite FaceBook with Wikipedia, YouTube, or Scribophile.  Point being, I’m not getting jack done on my novel(s).

But I have approximately six weeks and three days left until my summer vacation is over, and it will be back to the full time teaching thing.  That isn’t counting the two days of mandatory gap analysis (where we analyze the gaps in our students’ test scores, I kid you not), or however many days I’ll need to spend getting my classroom ready for the start of the school year.  Because:

And yes, I made both of those memes.

So in my brilliance, I took about fifteen minutes on Monday afternoon and created a “Summer Schedule” for myself.  If I don’t institute some self-discipline, dammit!, I’m not going to get anything done.

I even titled my schedule “Stop being a lazy bum and follow this schedule so you get something done!”

(It sounds cooler than it actually is.)

The tricky part was determining the balance between writerly things and regular life things.  So here’s the gist of it:

  • Sunday
  • Go to church
  • Write critiques on Scribophile (at least 3)
  • Laundry
  • Say rosary
  • Read a book
  • Family dinner
  • Monday
    • Workout (no later than 3pm start)
    • Write critiques (at least 1)
    • Work on novella project
    • Read a book/say rosary
  • Tuesday
    • Workout (no later than 3pm start)
    • Write critiques (at least 1)
    • Blog (either food or writing)
    • Run errands
    • Read a book/say rosary
  • Wednesday
    • Workout
    • Historical Fiction WIP revisions
    • Novella project
    • Critiques
    • Read/say rosary
  • Thursday
    • Workout (are we noticing a pattern here?)
    • Novella project
    • Blog (whichever wasn’t done on Tuesday)
    • Clean house
    • Read/Rosary
  • Friday
    • Workout
    • Work on short story
    • Work on queries
    • Read/say rosary
    • Date night with the hubs
  • Saturday
    • Work outside (weeding, etc.)
    • Go for a walk or go swimming
    • Critiques (at least 3)
    • Read/say rosary
    • Time with the hubs
    And that doesn’t include the list of “other things” that need to be done before August 31st, like our vacation, the baking of cookies and pies I’m doing for a friend’s wedding, or the time I’ll be spending in my classroom.
    You may be wondering how it’s going so far.  Well….. parts have worked out okay.  Not so much the workout part.  Or the cleaning the house part.  We could probably overlook the fact that I’m blogging on a Friday instead of the scheduled Thursday.
    I don’t mean to be a rule breaker. In my defense, life has thrown some curve balls this week. Like having to wait 6 hours for the Honda dealer’s service department to change my air filters and transmission fluid and service my A/C system, instead of the quoted 3 hours. Thank God they gave me a loaner vehicle.  At least I could go to Barnes & Noble and the mall.  But that was a wasted day.
    But, in the semi-infamous words of Captain Barbossa (okay, maybe I just like quoting from PotC), it’s  “more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules.”
    Now go away so I can get some work done!

    July National Novel Writing Month

    Happy July!  I am currently thrilled for the following reasons:

    1. I am officially done with everything school related until August 16th (other than going in to check my mail and water my plants). 
    2. A friend of mine from high school has asked me to make pies and Italian cookies for her wedding in August, which is going to keep me rather busy (but I have a plan!).
    3. Last night I finished revising and editing the first half of my manuscript, thus completing a draft of what must be the first book (of two).  More on that another time.
    4. At the end of the month, the hubs and I will be heading to Gettysburg to do some serious feeding of my inner history geek.
    5. Did I mention I’m on summer vacation?
    Well, turns out I have another reason to be excited, especially now that I’ve finished that huge chunk of R&E and can take a smallish break from my “darling”.
    You’ve all heard of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), right?  You should have – I posted about it in November.  You know, it’s the month when you go crazy and try to hammer out a 50k novel in 30 days?  Yeah, that’s NaNoWriMo.
    Well, did you know there’s a July version of it?  JulNoWriMo!
    Yes, July Novel Writing Month is upon us.  The “contest” identifies itself as being “just like NaNoWriMo – only hotter.”  Because it’s July.  And in the northern hemisphere at least, that’s summer.  Which is usually hotter than November.
    Unless you live in the tropics.
    There are a few small differences.  First of all, you get 31 days to write instead of only 30.  Hey, that one day could make or break someone’s word count!  Second, the website is little more than its forums.  There are some resource pages, but overall, it’s a community website, and other than the spot in your profile to update your word count (and you’re on the honor system, by the way) and story summary, there isn’t a place to “share” anything about your book (at least not that I’ve seen yet).  For NaNo, you can give a lot more info about your book, including an excerpt, and the whole website is, well, more than its forums.
    The biggest difference is that NaNoWriMo (the November WriMo) specifically states in its “rules” that you cannot write one word of narrative before November 1st.  You can outline, you can plot, you can draw pictures of your characters screaming in terror at the prospect of literary mayhem without your inner editor to hold the reins.  But for the July WriMo, the rules are a little relaxed on that score.  I quote from the “About” page:
    Does [my novel] have to be a new novel, or can I continue my other novel? – As far as we’re concerned, this shouldn’t matter. If you want to finish a novel you’re already working on, great! Just write 50,000 more words.”
    Now I personally think it would still be cheating if you pulled out a novel-in-progress that’s already at the 45k word mark and declare after a week, “I’m done!”  That defeats the purpose.  But if you have, say, only 2k words written, I guess you could theoretically start with that and not be breaking the rules.  Especially if you do some revising of that first two thousand words.
    As with NaNo, JulNoWriMo has no prizes for completing your novel, other than the self-satisfaction of, well completing your novel.  But here’s why I’m particularly excited about this.
    See, I’ve had this story idea brewing since, oh, 2005, and other than a hastily scribbled chapter in a notebook, done on vacation that summer, I’ve never done anything with it.  A couple weeks ago, I resurrected the chapter and played around a bit.  Since this little work in progress is still nascent, I could be persuaded that I am breaking no rules by using this story.
    Here’s my plan, people.
    I’m going to use JulNoWriMo to hammer out this new little darling.  Thanks to my handy-dandy writing software, which allows me to project a desired word count and then figures daily averages and whatnot, I need to write approximately 1500 words a day to finish by July 31st.  Then – watch out, novel contests and agents and small publishers!  I might just send that baby your way!
    Can I do it?  No idea.  But it will give me a break from my “big baby” for a while.

    Finding Motivation

    I admit openly that I’ve been wallowing a bit this past week.  Okay, wallowing a lot.  I generally try not to wallow over things but….

    It may be rather clear to those of you who’ve read my previous post as to the cause of said wallowing.  And those of you who’ve made the connection would, I hope, agree that I’ve got the right to wallow a bit just now.

    However, I don’t like wallowing, and I need to figure out how to stop.

    Motivation is a tricky thing in all things literary.  I had ample motivation to sit at the computer and write for the first month or so of summer vacation, just not the physical stamina to do so for long enough periods of time.  Now I’ve got the stamina and no motivation.  I did manage to plunk out the first scene in Chapter 42 (after having gone back to the original version of that scene, which I think I wrote when I was about fifteen or sixteen, and almost gagging with the immaturity of it) and it turned out to be pretty decent.  Unfortunately, due to the wallowing, all I want to do right now is skip around and write all the sad scenes that are left and save the happy scenes for when I’m done wallowing.

    But that’s not really how I write.  I’ve been known in the past to scribble out a future scene (admittedly during high school study halls, in boring college lecture hall classes when I was supposed to be taking notes, waiting for a connecting flight at the airport….) but I don’t write by jumping around.  Though I have everything outlined, I still have to write in a linear fashion because too much skipping around can lead, in my experience at least, to plot inconsistencies and inaccuracies.  So I’m stuck plodding through the happy scenes I have no motivation to write.

    Motivation is necessary in life, too.  My husband and I had the most powerful motivation in the world to finish our indoor construction/remodeling projects, but now some of those things have really fallen by the wayside.  My husband, in fact, actually threw out the “Things To Do Before _____” list, citing that we can make a new list.  When we get new motivation?

    My wallowing has severely damaged my motivation for life right now.  Just about the only thing that’s got me up moving around today is the fact that we’re going to Disney World tomorrow, and somebody needs to pack.

    I made a decision yesterday, however, about motivation and my life.

    I’m going to lose five pounds.

    For someone who loves to cook and bake (and eat), that is no small thing.

    I don’t necessarily need to lose five pounds – I’m within the healthy weight range for my age and height – but I should lose five pounds.  I think I’d feel better all around if I did.  Losing five pounds would put me back where I was on my wedding day and, shallow as it sounds, I felt really pretty and amazing on my wedding day.

    What it will take, however, to get me to lose five pounds is another matter of motivation entirely.