Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Read (or re-read) a Favourite Book

I spend a lot of money on books.  A lot.  Even as a child, most of my allowance went to the Sweet Valley High military-industrial complex.

Reading a lot often leads to re-reading.  Re-reading favourite books is one of the most enjoyable activities in life.  I have read The Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery (of Anne of Green Gables fame) at least a hundred times and The Mysterious Mr. Quin by Agatha Christie at least the same number.  You know what to expect from an old favourite.  I know that I will laugh, I will savour the fantastic writing and I will cry…every time.

The way I look at it is this: the first read is just the introduction.  The second is an attempt to discover the secret behind the magic combination of words and images.  The third (or more) are for pure love.  Who couldn’t do with more love…or more books? 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Resolutions - Send Out More Query Letters

One of my Writing Resolutions for this year is to "Send 100 Queries".  Here is how I plan to do it.

So the hard part is already completed: I've written my novel, I've created my query letter and I've researched dozens of literary agents to send both of these to.

The thing is that I've tried submitting for publication before but I've never been able to maintain a regular pace.  My pattern has been to send out a few queries, rest on my laurels, and wait for the rejections to come rolling in.  I don't send out a significant number of other queries until months pass.

The question, then, is why haven't I been sending out queries to literary agents and publishers at a scorching pace?

The answer: fear.

It takes an emotional toll to send out well-crafted and well-researched submissions only to have them returned (sometimes cruelly swiftly) with a form rejection or no response at all.  The non-responses are arguably worse because they keep hope alive.  If my pattern, as I've recently noticed, is to wait until most or all of my old queries are rejected before I send out new ones, then I am effectively handcuffing myself according to the whims of others.

It's time for me to take charge.

That's why, this year, I have vowed to send out 100 query letters.  Period.  End of story.

If they all get returned with form rejections in two days, so be it.  If none of them even get a response, oh well.  In either case, I've tried.  And what's more, I've given it a real sustained effort, not a haphazard Hail Mary shot.

Having a concrete goal has already made a difference.  Without the practice of sitting down in front of the computer and saying 'maybe I'll send out five queries today' and not revisiting them for five months, I am less concerned with the results and more concerned with the part of the process I can control -- getting my work out there.

It's a cruel world.  Rejections have already started to come in from the first nine queries I've submitted so far this year.  But I will press on.  Only 91 more to go.

Friday, January 27, 2012

How to Handle Praise

Without any kind of ego, I have to say that I get complimented on my writing fairly often.  Full disclaimer: many of these compliments come from my writing group, and my friends/ coworkers/ acquaintances.  Some have come from teachers and instructors, staff at a writing school, and mentor-writers.

It has taken me a long time to learn how to accept a compliment.

Here's what I do:

1) Blush - I can't help it.  I just never grew out of blushing.  In fact, I started blushing in my teens and never grew back out of it.  If you don't blush, try just taking a breath.  Pause and let what was said sink in.

2) Say "Oh come on" or some variant of this - This is my natural instinct.  I'm self-deprecating by nature.  Rather than taking the popular advice of being a braggart, I've stuck with this instinct and, as a result, people have often commented on how humble I am.  Note: When I need to be, I am very assertive.  Kinda have to be in my day job.

3) Say "Thank you" - Accept the compliment.  After that initial hesitation, which as I indicate, I can't really keep myself from making, I can take the praise at face value and let it warm me up.

For many people, skipping the second step feels more natural.  If that's the case, great.  If you're an introvert like me, try this.  It often leads to a more fulsome conversation about writing in general and eventually, you can stop blushing.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Check out my new profile picture...

(It's on my About Me section on the right side panel).

It's my upcoming cover for my first published erotic romance with Total-E-Bound Publishing!!

The story is called "Captive Angel" and, as you may guess, it's a steamy angelic romance involving an angel who is captured by one of Lucifer's highest-ranking demons, and the mate she left behind in heaven who is desperate to save her.

I think that the cover is beautiful and I hope you do too.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Scarlett O'Hara

I love the book Gone with the Wind (the movie too, for that matter!).  Without a doubt, Scarlett O'Hara is one of the most memorable heroines in English literature.

Why do I love Scarlett?  Well, she's beautiful, clever and sought after.  She's also flawed.  She's willful, stubborn and selfish.  But she's also determined and loyal.  Yes, loyal.  It is her unswerving loyalty and faith in her love for Ashley (even in the face of the dashing and much more suitable Rhett) that makes her wrongheaded and unrequited love tolerable, and even endearing.

Love should be courageous.  Just like Scarlett.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Resolutions - Blog Regularly

One of my Writing Resolutions for this year is to "Blog Regularly".  Here is how I plan to do it.

I started this blog at a maniacal pace.  One post every day for three months.  Yikes.  It's no wonder my writing production went downhill.  I was spending most of my creative energy on the blog.  It was a mixed blessing.

Although I was writing to support, inspire and inform my writing, I wasn't writing much.  I didn't know how to balance the two.

In the last few months of 2011, my blogging output dropped off dramatically.  I was down to a post or two a month.  But, because I was writing much more, I was fine with the sacrifice.  Besides, I was in the middle of signing my first romance publishing contract so I told myself I didn't have the time for the blog anyway.

But I missed blogging.  So one of my writing resolutions this year is to find a blogging schedule that fits my life (and my writing).

I've decided to aim for weekly posts, with a few special features if I have the time to write them.  How do I intend to achieve this output?

Finding ideas has never been my problem, either for my writing or blogging.  I have lots to write about, just not enough time to write it.

The time to write my blog posts will have to come out of my writing time.  No two ways about that.  But instead of aiming for writing a post a day, I will try to write a few posts at a time, hopefully with a similar theme, and schedule them for future posting.  For my blog posts, I also have to factor in the research time which is often a few hours to write a single post (mainly because I don't like giving out erroneous information).

It will be work, but enjoyable work.  I'm looking forward to once again spending more time with my online writing community!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Resolutions - Write More

One of my Writing Resolutions this year is to "Write More".  Here is how I plan to do it.

For me, finding the time to write has been relatively easy.  I run to my study whenever I find a lull in the hectic pace of my family life or, you know, pretty much whenever everyone around me stops screaming for a few minutes.

Setting up the space has worked out fine.  Although I do share my office space, I have a dedicated writing area that is all my own (once everyone in the family clears out of the doorway).

So what has stopped me, up until now, from writing more?  Why is it that when I sit down on my computer, I don't write nonstop for the half-hour or hour allotted to me that day?

First of all, the internet is a constant lure for me.  I want to research something to put into my story or my blog and I suddenly find myself playing a few games of Bubble Town.  After a while, I forget why I even came in the study in the first place.

Then, I want to find out what's happening in the rest of my house.  What is there to snack on?  Who's in the living room and what are they watching on t.v.?  There goes another hour, willingly frittered away, on Thinsations and reruns of Chopped.

What have I learned from the examples above?

Writing is solitary.  It disconnects you from the world--which is a good thing if you want to get a story done.  You need to be alone.  But now, as I get older, I have less tolerance for being alone.  I want company.  I crave connections, whether it's with my family in front of the television or on Twitter with a few hundred strangers.

This is a change that's happened within me.  Life has sped up and I have gone along with the new breakneck pace.  I need to slow down.  I need to think.  To reflect.  To savour both the thought process of writing and the writing itself.

So these are the techniques I will be trying out when I have my regular writing time:

1) Breathe.  Empty my mind.  Meditate.  I want to spend at least five minutes doing nothing but preparing myself to write every time I want to sit down in front of the computer.

2) Time myself.  I will set a timer next to me so that I know how long I've been in front of the computer.

3) Set mini-goals.  I will not get up from my desk until I have 100, 500 or 1,000 words written.  I don't care if it takes me ten minutes or hours to reach that goal.

4) Be flexible.  This one seems to go against my previous techniques but I also need to give myself the ability to balance my family, friends and day job.  If I can't, say, write ten pages this week, I can role this part of my goal into the following week and aim for twelve pages then.

Monday, January 09, 2012

My Writing Resolutions for 2012

Everyone does it.  It's our dirty little secret.  Some of us share it with a few close friends and family members.  Some of us, myself included, never tell another living soul.

I'm talking about our New Year's Resolutions.

We've all made them.  We've all broken them.  That's why we don't like to display them for public consumption.

I don't mind failure.  In other words, it hurts, but it won't crush me or destroy my ambition to try again.  Granted, it took me a long time to get to this point.  When I was younger, my confidence was more fragile and I resisted trying to achieve anything I wasn't already sure I would succeed at.  Let me tell you, that attitude is very limiting.  And immature.  Thankfully, most of us grow out of it in time.

I make many of the same resolutions every year.  Eat healthy.  Exercise.  Watch less television.  I don't keep my resolutions for the entire year but the spirit of them lives on and I often go back to them and give it another go.  For instance, in the fall of 2011, I was taking my lunch to work every day in an effort to eat healthier, which was one of my resolutions for the year.  If you can believe it, I got better results in September than I ever did in January.  Go figure.

So, here are my New Year's Resolutions for 2012.  I will be tracking my progress over the course of the year(!).  Join me.  Make some of your own.  And keep track.  That's the only way to know what to do better next time.  'Cuz if you're like me, there will be a next time.

1) Write more (a perennial favourite)

2) Establish a regular blogging schedule (I'm thinking weekly)

3) Send out 100 queries to publishers and/or literary agents for my completed manuscripts

Easy, right?  I'll do my best.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

2011: A Writer's Retrospective

Happy New Year!

Before we turn the page completely over on 2011, I wanted to share with you my amazing writing year.

As you may know, I spent a lot of time on my writing this past year.  But, unlike other years, I shifted part of my focus from production to submission--that is, trying to get published.

It was hard work.  I polished my manuscripts 'til they shone with an eerie light of their own.  I drafted and re-drafted several query letters, which took a lot longer than I would have thought possible.  If you think writing is difficult...whoa.

I researched and submitted to literary agents, publishers and periodicals, all in the hope of getting that all important nibble of interest from anyone, anywhere.  Of course, getting a nibble from someone whose interests you've researched and analyzed is worth so much more than a 'you'll hear from us in six months' auto-reply from another market.

My strategy this past year was to pay attention to calls for submissions from romance publishers and writing specific pieces targeting these publishers.  This strategy really paid off.

Pushing that send button on your email can be the most stressful action in a writer's life.  It puts your work out there in the cold hard world.

This year, I got several nibbles--people actually interested enough in my writing to want to read whole manuscripts!  I was thrilled.

I am pleased to report that my hard work paid off in 2011.  But my plans didn't start generating results in January or even by May.  I got my first showing of interest in the summer and signed my two publishing contracts in the last few months of the year.  Definitely worth the wait!

So, this year, I would urge you to take a little bit of time away from your writing and polish up those completed manuscripts--or do some looking and write a new piece specifically for a publisher's call.  Send your work out there.  That's the only want it will ever be read.

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