Reflection on 2016 and Refocus on 2017

appointments to write

 At times my best intention got set aside in 2016 in order to deal with the drama of life. Image from free microsoft clipart.

2016 has been both a difficult and amazing year. I’ve found myself in the midst of great sorrow and awesome joy. Frustrated and energized and a myriad of other emotions.

My father passed. My mother went into assisted living. The months leading up to these two events were full of drama.

contractDuring those same months, I received a book contract and gained an agent. After getting over the initial shock and doing a few happy dances, the realization that life as I know it had just ratcheted up a few notches on the need-to-be-more-focused scale.

Then my PC did strange things at crucial moments. Tears and frustration abounded.ps-2911-meme Thanks to Microsoft technicians it found deliverance from cyber demons. My newly upgraded PC gave me better options for my Word documents. This led to more frustration while learning the new system.

Working with editors helped me learn to better edit myself.

Rejections

My second novel began doing the rejection rounds in 2016. I’m not discouraged because Secrets and Charades was rejected 20 times before it found a publishing home. I continue to edit and tweak.

My third novel is taking longer to write the first draft than the other two. My editor’s cap keeps me from moving on to the end.Long Ago Pic-2

I was forced to strive to be more productive in shorter increments of time due to family commitments and my job. I realized it was indeed possible to write at night even when I’m tired.

Marketing

Marketing is a new experience I began researching in 2016. Reading blogs from authors who have mastered marketing. Seeking out fellow-authors to learn their secrets. Brainstorming with another writer friend who is helping me get my marketing set up. Because I hate promoting myself, my internal judge sees no upside yet.

Realizing I can do this writing thing despite adversity has boosted my confidence.fear-and-doubt-meme

2017 Writing Goals

After the roller coaster of last year my writing goals for 2017 are simple.

Write more.

Edit more.

Learn my side of marketing.

Continue to pay-it-forward by helping other writers on their journey.

And sell lots of copies of Secrets and Charades. It comes out March 2017.

Happy New Year everyone. Hope you reach all your writing and marketing goals in 2017.

 

 

No Guilt Over Missed Writing Goals

tomorrow-meme

Up until a few months ago, I’ve been consistent on my blog posts. Twice a week was my goal this year. A few weeks I only posted once and a few others it was three because I reblogged a great post I found. Then my father fell at the nursing home, spent time in the hospital then died. Before I could begin the grieving process, my parent’s home sold and we had to move my mom to Assisted Living. Two months later, after my dad’s memorial, the house closing, and my mom securely relocated; I’m beginning to breathe normally again. During this time, I did write. But for whatever reason, I couldn’t bring myself to post anything. I wrote two blogs which will be appearing the next few days.  The normalcy of posting a blog was just too hard. Finding things to inspire fellow writers when my heart was heavy just wasn’t happening.

The weird thing, I created a new storyline for a novella and submitted the proposal. It didn’t come to anything but it soothed my writing soul. It took me weeks to come up with the right words to honor my father at his memorial. Both projects were out of my comfort zone at that time.

Now, at last, I feel I can blog again. No guilt or condemnation. The feeling of inadequacy has passed. Now I begin again. I love the Lucy Maude Montgomery quote from Anne of Green Gables: “Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it.”

I make no apologies to my readers. I know you all understand. We all fall when bumps in the road of life rise and send us flying. But in due time we begin again. We pick up our pen or put our fingers to the keyboard and let the words flow. We even edit, tweak and rewrite and finally submit our words.

As I have mentioned in the past. I rarely share about personal things on my blog. But grief is something we all will face and I want to encourage all of you. Don’t receive the guilt. Don’t lay down with the disappointment of missing your goal at a time like this. Let God set the course for you to beginning afresh. Allow him to take you to the next open door in your writing in his time. He knows when you are ready.

 

 

Ten years in the Making: A Book Contract

contract

 

If you follow me on Facebook, you saw my recent announcement. I received my first book contract. It only took 10 years to get there. Oh, let’s not forget 20 rejections, many rewrites and several edits. Years of improving my writing skills through online writing courses and writing books.  Ten years of attending conferences. Submitting to magazines and websites with both success and failure. I’ve made the acquaintance of many writers, both newbies and seasoned pros. During my ten year journey I have added agents and publishers to that list of acquaintances.

Help others on the journey

I’ve written over a hundred book reviews and supported my fellow-writers anyway I can. I enjoy helping promote their books and sharing words of affirmation when they were discouraged. I have purposed to invest in others while I worked toward the illusive contract.

Keep learning

Actions such as joining critique groups, following writing blogs and reading a lot propelled me toward the goal of publication. This has been ten years of perseverance and determination. I’d confess “I am a writer” when I wanted to keep that proclamation to myself. Established writers encouraged me to learn how to use social media.  Then I started this blog, Writer’s Patchwork, where all these writerly parts are sown together into the bigger quilt of gaining a contract. (Clever play on words.)

Cindy's Editor's Choice Award-2

My award. I am so blessed.

Never give up

Anyway, the point I’m trying to press home is don’t give up. Don’t get discouraged and keep helping others in the industry. Keep focusing on your goal and over time you’ll get that book contract.

Come follow me

It will probably be a year before my novel will be available for sale. During that time, I will be posting the next stretch of my journey. Even though I have a contract, a mountain-load of work remains to be done before I see my book in print. I’ll share my experiences in hopes of inspiring all of you to keep going. And give you a glimpse into the process of contract to book shelf.

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Writer Interrupted

Does your writing day sometimes look like this as interruptions invade your journey.

Does your writing day sometimes look like this as interruptions invade your journey.

I wish I could place a do not disturb sign on my forehead. Or a cone of silence around my writing area. Maybe a writer beacon could flash in the sky alerting all who know me that I am in the writing zone.

My writer's cape for superhuman word smithing.

My writer’s cape for superhuman word smithing.

Maybe I need a cape with a big W on it so others would recognize my typing is a super human feat requiring total concentration.

But in the real world we all know there are interruptions.

Others

My elderly mother calls three times a day. Each call is something little she needs or remembered. Some are the same information spaced hours apart. She forgets she told me.

My son hands me his baby to entertain. No matter I was right in the middle of research or tweaking something. (Oh, but I do love playing with the baby.)

Who wouldn't want to spend the evening plaiyng with my sweet grandson.

Who wouldn’t want to spend the evening plaiyng with my sweet grandson.

My daughter calls to remind me to take her dog out because she won’t be home until the end of the week. So out I go, dog on leash, poop bag in hand.

The dogs (yes there are two, both belong to my adult children) stare me down begging for attention. The littlest one crawls up in my lap if I am sitting on the couch or overstuffed chair, squeezing between me and my keyboard.

My granddaughters asked for me to print off coloring pages when they see me at my computer. After all isn’t it what Gramma’s are for?

My hubby reads me the latest interesting thing he finds on Facebook while I am trying to compose the perfect sentence.

My parents need to be taken to the doctor, ban, grocery store. They need to be reminded which medications to take when. And told how to correctly set the thermostat for the hundredth time.

Myself

I can’t stop checking e-mail and answering every important one immediately. Those answers always take a few paragraphs. I spend extra time making sure there are no typos or unclear passages. After all I am a writer.

I have to finish that novel I couldn’t put down the night before. Then it is out of my mind and I can concentrate on my own novel.

My fav show is coming on soon.

I’m exhausted from work and want to veg for a while or hours or days.

Clean the house for another family get-together. Decorate for another birthday party.

Paint the house, clean the house, do the yardwork, grocery shop.

Never-ending

AHHHHHH!!!!! Interruptions abound.

Yet, I still get the blog posts done, sometimes a little later than scheduled.

I get the article or short story emailed on time.

And edits and critiques get done.

Novel ideas take shape

Book reviews get written.

Such is the writer’s life. I’m sure, like me, many of those interruptions in your life have turned into some interesting articles, devotionals, plot twists and blog posts. Kinda like this one. 🙂

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Accountability Partners vs Mentors : Why writers need them

Accountability and Mentoring grow your writing career and improve your craft.

Accountability and Mentoring grow your writing career and improve your craft.

Every writer at some point in his career needs an accountability partner and a mentor. Both help grow your career and make you a better writer. Some people get the two terms confused. Let me start by defining terms.

Accountability partners work together to achieve a variety of goals. Accountability isn’t unique to writers. Weight control groups and gyms offer accountability for success in achieving health goals. Partners report their weight loss or number of sit ups on a weekly basis. The end result of a successful partnership is not only achieving their weight loss or exercise goals but developing habits of good health that last a life time.

Mentors have gone before you. They have already achieved their goals. In the case of writers, they are published, know how to market and may even know the ins and outs of social media. They know what it takes to be successful A mentor guides and instructs writers to improve their craft.

Sometimes a mentor can hold a mentee accountable for reaching his goals and ask his mentee to do the same for him.

The one big difference: a mentor is usually farther along in his career. While an accountability partner can be on an equal level or a newbie. The end game is slightly different in each setting.

What to expect from an Accountability Partner

Accountability partners enter into a verbal agreement to report progress on a weekly basis. Each individual sets a goal for the week and then reports his progress at the end of the week. Accountability partners can also be critique partners. You each agree to critique portions of the other’s writing every week. Here’s where it can get sticky. Accountability partners need to be realistic. The burden has to be equally shared. If you want your partner to critique a chapter a week you better be willing and able to do the same for them. If you need your foot held to the fire for completing a certain number of pages or words a day then be sure to do your part.

Don’t abuse your partner. If she critiques your work, but you don’t have time to do the same, don’t bother to enter into this partnership. Hire an editor. It’s not fair to expect more from your partner than you have time to give.

How to best learn from your mentor

Mentors are wonderful things as long as you don’t rely on them too heavily. They’re not your personal editor or manuscript fixer. Don’t take advantage by expecting him or her to introduce you to their agent or open doors for you. It could happen, but that is not their job description. Mentors or coaches may give you assignments to help strengthen weak areas. If they do critiques for you, take full advantage by working hard to make your writing shine. Don’t throw rough drafts at them to fix. Instead present your best work for evaluation. That’s how you learn to improve your craft. Be open to their correction and insights.

 

The value of an accountability partner

Accountability partners are something you can keep throughout your writing career. The partner may change over time for various reasons. Many writers don’t work for a magazine or publisher who give them deadlines. Your partner becomes that deadline. Striving to give an honest report of goals achieved will keep you on track. You can create your own deadlines for creating submissions, editing and reading craft books by setting those goals with your accountability partner.

When you might need a mentor

Writers should continue to grow and improve. A writer can learn much from craft books, conferences and classes. There comes a time you might needed a mentor when one on one counseling and training will help you improve your writing, editing or marketing. Their goal: reproduce new outstanding writers.

Where are you in your career?

Do you need your foot held to the fire to achieve your goals or help perfecting your craft? Or both?

Love to hear your thoughts on mentoring and accountability.

 

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Speedbo: More than A Monthly Goal Challenge

Speedbo participant

In the midst of working, helping with grandchildren and meeting the needs of my elderly parents I embarked on an adventure I almost skipped. I joined Speedbo for the month of March.

Speedbo ended yesterday. For those of you who missed my blog explaining Speedbo let me catch you up. Speedbo is sponsored by Seekerville. You sign up to accomplish one or more writing goals during the 31 days of March. Unlike NANOWRIMO you can devote the month to editing rather than just write. What you write and how you want to reach your goals is up to you. Send your goals to Seekerville and get started.

My goal

I wanted to write a new novel rough draft. I missed my 62,000 word goal by 1200 words. My goal was foremost about writing daily and word count was a great marker. Two thousand words a day no matter what. Matter did interrupt a few days, and I made most of that up by going over my word count other days. Technically, I wrote four new blogs during the month so my total word count for the month exceeded 62,000. But this word count made me a little shy of a completed rough draft but closer than I have ever gotten in a 31 day time frame. I am so excited to look back at all the interruptions and realize I still did it.

2015-04-01 07.30.44

What I learned.

  • I can write any time of day. I don’t just need to write in the morning. Being a morning person I tend to lose momentum in the creative department as the day lengthens. A few days this month my most creative times were evenings.
  • I discovered I can write in noise. My 2 year old granddaughter has developed a shriek lately that is like chalk on a blackboard. When I’m in the zone screechy two-year olds and loud giggles don’t reach my conscience mind.
  • Putting butt in chair can become a bigger inspiration than any muse or word prompt when you have a deadline. Every day I sat at my laptop and wrote. I could feel the inspirational parts rise out of the mess of words.
  • Even under pressure my characters still tell me what to write. I think they might be a bit pushier under pressure.
  • Scriviner software makes writing a manuscript easier. I chose to write by scenes rather than chapters. Now I can rearrange and expand on them and place them in the order I want in the editing process.
  • I still got reading in even in the midst of this self-imposed deadline. I read fewer books but I found the time.
  • I still got blogs and devotions written. Doing those helped stimulate my brain when it got numb from writing my novel draft.
  • Less TV is a good thing. There are times my family has games shows and reruns on that can draw you to sit and rest your work-weary mind. Choosing to write instead got my word count done.

What I knew before I started

  • I will work hard to meet a deadline. I work better with a deadline. My writing muse seems to appear more easily under pressure.
  • I get the other important things done because I make time each day for those things.
  • Family will always come first with or without a deadline.
  • Having an accountability partner only added to my determination to succeed. I’d acquired a new accountability partner at the beginning of the year. Knowing I had to report my progress every week already had me fired up about writing.

Conclusion

I will do Speedbo again in the future; it is life changing. Now I hope the habit is embedded in my DNA. So I will continue creating my own deadlines to see if I can maintain momentum throughout the rest of 2015.

Have you ever done Speedbo or NANOWRIMO or anything like them?

 

 

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Ceasing the Moments to Write

Well, my plan was to rise early to get some writing done. Because this day before thanks giving is going to be full of activity. I don’t have guests coming here but I need to prepare pies to take to my sisters. I have a chiropractor’s appointment this morning because it had to be moved from Monday. Having a new grandbaby is a great reason to move it. And then there is my monthly hair appointment. I almost slept in. I felt so lovely not to have to get up at 4:30. Well, I managed ten extra minutes. My six year old granddaughter woke me with tummy trouble. After some Imodium she is resting on the couch while I set at the other end typing this blog.

I have plans to finish other writing projects. Those are temporarily shifted in priority while I put musing that have taken over my mind with my granddaughter’s early morning need.

toddler girl sleeping

Write where you can when you can.

Often ideal moments never come. I am most productive early morning because by 9pm my brain is fried of all creativity. On my days off three or four hours of early morning writing is a blessing. On work days 20 or 30 minutes of vomiting thoughts on a page gives me a feeling of exhilaration.

Often the time I set aside to write gets shifted because family needs or a dirty bathroom take precedence. (You know how easy that toothpaste encrusted sink can turning into an hour of thoroughly cleaning the bathroom,)

Laptop will travel

There are times I take my laptop to a different location in my home to work. I’ve sat near the grandkids while they play. Wrote during commercials during family time. (This is the get the thoughts on paper kind of writing). Nothing really creative happens while your brain multi-task between TV and word craft.

My laptop may sit on the kitchen table while I pop something in the oven for dinner. Staying near the oven to actually hear the timer is preferred to hearing the smoke detector from my office. If the grandchildren insist on helping me cook the laptop remains ideal in my office.

I have a rolling desk in my bedroom. I can use it while propped up in bed which is a great place to stay when I don’t want any interruptions in the afternoon or early evening. My room is off limit to all family members. Except my hubby who lately has decided that’s a great time to take a nap or look as FB on his phone. The sound of snoring or chuckling become background noise to my writing process.

On your feet

When my back is sore from all the sitting I use my kitchen counter to get a few paragraphs on paper. That’s often the time I clear out my email, make comments on blogs I follow and post FB status. At least in those moments I’m growing my internet footprint and working on my platform.

writing

At my day job and other places

My work uniform pockets, on slow days, often fill with scrapes of paper. Each containing either a writing to do list, a great line, story premise or a rewritten scene. My little notebook may come out in the car, the doctor’s waiting room or during a sermon to jot down the words, ideas and visions floating around in my head.

Because my writing life is rarely without interruptions I’ve learned to grab the time as I can. Whether pockets of time throughout a day or early morning watching over a sick child grabbing those moments gets me that much closer to completing my goals.

My goals

Getting paid to do the thing I love and share that love with as many people as I can.

What is your writing goal and how do you find time to write toward that goal?