Monthly Archives: February 2014

February Round-up and March Goals

It’s the end of February, and all I can think is, “Am I the only one who feels like I just got run over by a snowplow?” Between the crappy snowstorm that defeated my SUV and the medical issues my husband has been dealing with the past couple of weeks, I’m definitely ready to close the book on this past month.

Then I realize that some of my exhaustion is the good kind. I’m tired in part because I’ve been pouring my heart and soul into novel revision, more than I ever did into the first draft. I’m probably also a bit tired from having a busier evening schedule than I had been used to. Two nights a week for my writing group seemed really hard at first, because I do love my time with my husband just lounging and snuggling puppies. But I had set the goal, so I had to do it. It was worth it.

So that brings me to my wrap-up. How did I do? I fell a bit short of my expectations for myself about checking in with other #WriteMotivation folks on their blogs or on Twitter. I definitely need to schedule time for those check-ins, and give myself a list to go through each day or week. I made it to some, and commented on most that I visited, but I know there are probably plenty of participants whose blogs I never saw. I don’t want anyone to fall through the cracks, so I will pledge to do better next month. I also missed doing weekly posts, since I skipped updating during the second week of February. I did Twitter updates then, but I do need to improve at writing regular posts. For a first month, I would like to think I did all right at those universal goals, and hope to improve greatly next month.

Here were my personal WriteMotivation goals for February, in case you missed them:

  1. 30 hours of revision work– YES!! Just finished about 11pm, but I made it!
  2. 5 blog posts–This is post #5 for me for the month, so YES!!
  3. Attend at least 4 write-ins with my awesome writing group–YES!! Does it matter that I didn’t really get anything done at one session?
COOKIES!!!

COOKIES!!!

So it is with delight that I say YES!!! I finished my #WriteMotivation goals!!! This was my first month, and I didn’t know what to expect. I was blown away by the outpouring of support I received all month long, and I’ve loved getting to know you all virtually. And yes, I’m excited that I earned my guilt-free cookies. I’m easily entertained. 🙂

What will March bring? Hopefully continued success toward meeting my writing goals. If not, I know my #WriteMotivation comrades will have my back. Here are my goals for March…

  1. 50 hours of editing–I learned NaNoEdMo is taking a hiatus this year, but I’m still aiming for it.
  2. 6 blog posts
  3. Attend at least one write-in per week with my writing group.
  4. Read at least 1 trade book and 2 novels.

Tomorrow, the hubs and I will be attending AMC’s Best Picture Showcase, a 24-hour marathon of all the Best Picture nominees. I will not really be able to start my March goals until Sunday. I promise I will post something as soon as I come out of the post-movies stupor. Thanks to all my #WriteMotivation buds for a great month. You all welcomed me so warmly that I hope I can return the favor. Write on!!

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Friday, February 28, 2014 · 11:45 PM

Beauty and the (Manuscript) Beast

In 2011, I wrote an urban fantasy. I had an idea of an edgy, dark story with influences from Irish mythology and modern-day crime dramas. This was a huge change from the medieval, high fantasy YA stuff I had written before. I loved the characters and my story, and decided to write it during NaNoWriMo.

The month started well, but I stalled in the middle. (The familiar second-week woes stretched almost into week four that year.) I wrote over half the draft in the last three or four days, including 10,000 words on the final day. The result was a manuscript that was as battered and incongruous as any fairy tale beast.

What can save such a wretched creation? Much like that tale as old as time, I’ve discovered that love is truly transformative. Finding my passion for this story–the parts of it that made me want to write it in the first place–gives me the courage to make the sort of sweeping changes it needs right now.

The cuts and rewrites ahead of me will not be easy. I know that revising this monstrously wrecked manuscript will force me to dig deep, and put a bit of my heart and soul on the page. I also believe it will absolutely be worth it, and that the true beauty of my story will be revealed after I give it my tough love.

I’m heading back to revision. I’d love to hear your revision fairy tales or horror stories in the comments!

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Into the Home Stretch–February WriteMotivation Update

This month has flown by for me. I know it’s a short month, but it has also been an extraordinarily busy one. I’ve had work commitments, family functions, several social engagements (love that phrase, it makes my movie nights with friends sound posh), and volunteer responsibilities with the animal shelter we support. We also took on a new foster dog, Oswin. She’s a wild and crazy 7 month-old chihuahua cross who also happens to be pregnant. This could throw a wrench in my plans for the next few months, as we will have her and her future puppies until they are all ready for adoption. So you would think this insanity would throw me off writing, right?

Actually, this has been the most productive month for me since November. And apart from NaNoWriMo, it’s the most active I’ve been in my writing groups, on Twitter, on this blog, and even in my home-based business in nearly a year. I’m short on my revision hours, but am making great progress. I’ve got a couple of ideas for new projects to work on once I’m done revising PQ. I’m learning how to use G+ and other social media better to network with other writers and people in the book industry. I’ve also been gathering resources for the research I need to do to before writing my next draft.

So what has spurred this surge of activity? The answer isn’t all that profound. I simply STARTED. Contrary to popular belief, the best way to find happiness is not necessarily to simplify everything and cut back on your activities. Instead, I firmly believe that it’s more a matter of dedicating your time and energy to things you love and people who support you in your passions. I’m so grateful to have found an amazing group of writers here in Kansas City who I get to hang out with every week. They fill my cup in so many ways. Sometimes it’s just with words of encouragement, other times it’s more literal with tall pours of tasty beer or hot tea and good food to go with it. Connecting with them takes time, of course, but I never consider it time wasted, even if I don’t always get much writing done. When I don’t spend time with them or with others who share my love of books, I notice my productivity diminish and my attitude sour. I’m a more pleasant person to be around in general when I’ve been spending time doing more things I love, not less.

I encourage everybody to find what they love and pursue it ruthlessly. For me it’s books, food, and shelter dogs. When I find time for all of these in a month, like I have this month, it’s amazing how much better I feel and how much I can accomplish.

Here is my #WriteMotivation update so far, going into the last week of the month…

  • I’m up to 17.25 hours of revision so far (out of 30)
  • This is my 3rd blog post of the month (out of 5)
  • I’ve already made 4 write-ins with my local group–GOAL REACHED!!

I’m very satisfied with my progress, especially since this is my first month doing WriteMotivation. Sign-ups are available for March, and I’ll be posting my new goals later this week, and would encourage anyone who’s on the fence to do the same. It’s incredible how just having a little accountability and a huge cheering section can make it so much easier to reach your goals!

Now I’m off to catch up on my revision hours. Fair warning to all #WriteMotivation peeps and others: I will be unavailable for at least the next couple of days as I work on my revision outline. I’m hoping to get most of it done tonight, but since this book needs to almost double in length in rewrite, it could take quite some time. I will catch up on comments once that is done.

A final note, unrelated to writing but very near to my heart… Many of you probably saw the terrible news reports this past week about a little 8-week-old puppy who was abused and fed bleach. Little Bridget and her two siblings were rescued by our animal shelter, Unleashed Pet Rescue and Adoption. I am so proud to be a part of this incredible organization. We discovered Unleashed when we adopted our first dog, Charlie, a little over a year ago. They do amazing work pulling animals from high-kill shelters, doing community outreach to teach about proper pet care and assist those who may not be able to afford essentials for their animals, and rescuing special animals like Bridget. I was horrified to see the cruelty she had suffered, but am blown away by the support our shelter has received since the story broke. Bridget is recovering better than anyone dreamed, is in a wonderful foster home, and already has an adopter lined up once she’s ready. I just wanted to share because this has been a huge part of our lives this past week. If you want to read more about Bridget’s story and see the amazing updates on her progress, check out her Pet Caring Page. Be prepared for some tough photos, but also some adorable update pictures. Thank you, Unleashed, for all you do!

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All That You Dreamed I Could

I’ve been resisting writing a post this week. It wasn’t a conscious decision. I told myself I needed to write, put it on my calendar and various to-do lists. Yet every day, something else seemed more important.

My revision hours are more of a priority, I thought. I should spend time with my manuscript. I don’t have anything to say right now, maybe if I spend a couple hours on Twitter and Facebook I’ll get some ideas. I need to brush the dogs. I need to clean my house. I need inspiration, maybe I should watch some more Doctor Who. (Okay, I don’t feel so bad about that one…)

All of these excuses flooded my mind. None had anything to do with why I didn’t want to post.

You see, last Saturday marked the 19th anniversary of my brother’s death. I was in high school when my nearest brother in age died in a car accident on icy roads in Minnesota. No matter how much time passes, no matter how okay I think I am, February rolls around and I feel an invisible force slowing me, drawing me into myself. Inevitably, I stop writing.

I’ve been able to put in my revision hours (though I am behind on those as well), because it’s easy for me to turn on the logical, critical part of my mind. My inner editor is very good at shutting out emotions. I’m still at the evaluation stage, so I’m not cutting or writing new material yet. But a blog post? That meant creating, and I knew that opening myself up–no matter the topic–would force me to feel.

So here I am, still feeling a bit broken after all these years. I’ve lived over half my life without my big brother’s teasing and advice, without his crooked grin and serious eyes. We used to joke that Brian was an old man when he was born. He could be my biggest supporter, but always thought he needed to be the voice of reason when I was pursuing creative activities like writing, music, and theater. He used to tell me to keep writing, but have a back-up plan.

Why as an adult do I let myself hear that in reverse? I tell myself that I need to pursue a more lucrative, supposedly stable career, and put my writing on the back burner. But that wasn’t what my brother meant, and it isn’t what I need to make myself happy. He always wanted me to succeed, and believed I could and should. He feared the rest of the world wouldn’t be as supportive of my dreams as he was, though. And like the great man he was, he wanted only the best for his baby sister.

Why am I telling you all this? Selfishly, because I just need to share. But also, because others might be fighting pain and grief and trying to live up to expectations of those they love. I may never achieve everything I want to, but then again, I just might. If I spend all my time worrying about whether my brother would be proud of my accomplishments (or lack thereof), I won’t create anything new, and won’t be able to move through this pain to find peace.

So that’s my rambling update. Here are the numbers for my month so far. I’m up to about seven hours of revision work for the month, have attended two write-ins, and this is my second blog post. I’ve also shed quite a few tears, prayed a lot, and spent time just connecting with my writer friends both online and in person. I’m so thankful for these connections. I’ve tried to keep up with my fellow Write Motivation writers’ posts, too. I’ve read nearly everyone’s posts at least once. You’re an amazing bunch! Thank you all for being so supportive of me and each other!

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Badges, virtual cookies, and other motivations

Perhaps it’s because I was a Girl Scout. Perhaps it’s because I’m a gamer. Whatever the reason, I’ve learned over the years that I will work ridiculously hard to earn silly recognition. We recently got an Xbox 360, and though I’m still a Nintendo girl at heart, I have developed a slight obsession with earning the Achievements on Xbox. There’s just something about hearing that sound and seeing the little bar pop up that makes me want to cheer every time.

It’s the same way with writing. While it’s always been a passion of mine, I accomplish much more if I have some form of reward system in place, however trivial it may be. I did well for some time at writing daily on 750words.com, largely because I loved earning their badges for consecutive days of writing or other accomplishments. And of course, NaNoWriMo with its measurable goal, strict deadline, and exuberantly encouraging participants has transformed my writing life in ways I never guessed possible. But outside of November, I’ve found it hard to stay focused on my writing goals.

What I had been lacking was accountability. Giving my year-round goals more strict deadlines and a reward system is key to developing writing habits that will help me grow into the writer I want to be. I started out by participating in a local writing group made up of a few awesome people I met during NaNoWriMo. Then I learned about a weekly Twitter group called Write Club (@FriNightWrites). Both of these were great for making connections with fellow writers. I found encouragement and the occasional kick in the pants that I needed.

Then there was the discovery I made just last week. A couple of my local wrimos who I also follow on Twitter had posted about Write Motivation. It’s a self-imposed monthly challenge. You list your personal writing goals, promise to post about your progress in blog posts and on Twitter, and also to encourage others taking on the challenge. The reward? Virtual cookies. That’s it. Just a little graphic you can download with a picture of some cookies. But it is just what I needed to stay motivated while I’m working toward some big goals this year.

So I signed up for February. I’m starting out small, because it’s a short month and because it’s a fairly scary thing for me to take on a challenge so publicly. Here are my goals in all their glory:

1. 30 hours of revision on P.Q.

2. At least 5 blog posts this month. This sounds like a tiny number to me, but it’s something I have never accomplished. Blogging is still a challenge for me, because I’m a little terrified of putting myself out there and even more terrified that I don’t really have anything to say that will interest other people besides myself.

3. Attend at least 4 write-ins with my writing group. My schedule has been hectic, and will likely continue to be this month, but I need this connection to my writing peers.

That’s it. Those are my big goals for this month. I’m hoping taking on this challenge every month will help me set reasonable, measurable goals to develop myself as a writer. Want to join in the fun? Visit www.writemotivation.org for more information, or use #WriteMotivation on Twitter to share your own goals and your progress. And share your thoughts in the comments here. Happy writing!

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